“Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light” at The National Gallery (London)

The Sorolla exhibition in the National Gallery (London) stunned me. I didn’t know enough to have expectations, and then found myself in front of immense canvasses that spilled light and colour into the gallery. My absolute favourite was this one:

“Mother” by Joaquin Sorolla

The image onscreen doesn’t do justice to the overwhelming effect of the painting,  its power and colour, its radiant peace. I have never seen this subject in a painting before. For all the madonna-and-child images we’ve seen since childhood, this exact idea, the calm-after-birth/storm, was new to me in art.  The paradox is that it is the distance between the mother and her newborn baby that is so evocative: they are separate now, at peace, something new beginning. Photographs of me at similar times testify more to the blotchy, sweaty and usually untidy physical reality that follows birth. This painting is the emotion made physical: we made it and there you are. 

I see you.

A patronising review in The Guardian more or less says that only an idiot could think highly of this artist’s work, but this idiot doesn’t care. Several standout paintings in the exhibition will make you sit and stare, then stare longer. Give yourself plenty of time, you won’t want to rush this.

Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light runs until 7 July in the National Gallery; more info here

It will be in the National Gallery of Ireland from 10 August – 3 November; more info here

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6 Responses to “Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light” at The National Gallery (London)

  1. grainnemhaol says:

    I too am an idiot ( as in ‘I am Spartacus!’) Sorolla is bloody good. I ran into his work when at a teachers’ course – EU funded – in the British Council building in Madrid 15 or so years ago. At lunchtime the tutor recommended a lovely little gallery a few doors down. It was Sorolla’s studio. I met some of his paintings again in Alicante’s municipal museum. Sorolla takes subjects that bad painters also like, so gets accused of motherhood and apple pie, but his work is wonderful, deeply thoughtful and beautiful beyond the surface. I think there is a taboo about happiness in art. It doesn’t always write white. We are told it’s infra dig to celebrate joy. But this is the most damaging oul’ nonsense.

    • libranwriter says:

      Grainne, Thanks for this. I’m going to go again when the exhibition is in Dublin. ‘Writing joy’ could be (should be?) a manifesto for this difficult century.

  2. Ann Marie Hourihane says:

    I’ve never heard of him – but you have made me very interested in him. Will definitely go when it comes to Dublin. Thank you. am

  3. marymorrissy says:

    Lia, I’m with you – I love this painter and glad to find out it’s coming to Dublin as I was planning to travel for it.

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