After being seen in Valencia, Seville, Málaga and Bilbao, the MNAC
is to host the exhibition Sorolla. A View of Spain. The Hispanic Society of America Collection, which brings together the series of 14 panels painted by Sorolla to decorate the library of this New York-based American institution.
Curated by Felipe Garín and Facundo Tomàs, professors at the University of Valencia and experts on this painter, this exhibition presents, for the first time, all of these impressive pieces outside the headquarters for which the group of paintings was designed, and which have been restored for the occasion.
The art dealer and scholar Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955), who in 1904 founded the Hispanic Society of America, where he built up his important collection of Spanish art, commissioned Sorolla to do this decoration in 1911. The following year the painter travelled round Spain collecting images of the different types of landscape in Spain. In 1912, however, he began painting the immense panels directly from life, a task he was not to finish until 1919 and which meant a considerable effort on his part.
The iconographic programme developed by the painter is based on a free, highly personal interpretation of a very varied and diverse range of landscapes. Emerging forcefully behind these gigantic compositions is the talent and the energy of a painter observing the reality around him through eyes full of sensitivity: a sensitivity that can be glimpsed in the tiniest details. The time it took him to complete the task is highly illustrative proof of the challenge and the difficulty that doing the panels meant for Sorolla. Far from confining himself to doing them quickly, he decided to emphasise the direct contact with the motif depicted, thus turning the protagonists of the compositions into veritable studies of human types. This did not mean, however, renouncing the bursts of light and colour, two of the traits that have most characterized his art and have contributed the most to making him one of the most universal Spanish painters.
This exhibition is complemented with another formed of a group of about 50 drawings, belonging to the collections of the Museo Sorolla in Madrid and the Hispanic Society of America, which shows us the complex process of creating the large painted panels. The observation of these small-format compositions gives us the opportunity to get a close view, from a different angle, of what we might call one of the most singular artistic undertakings in the history of Spanish art. In the same way, visitors are also able to grasp the visual magnetism that the painters free, spontaneous language exerts.