Exhibition ‘Sorolla in black’ shows dark palette of Spanish painter

by Lorraine Williamson
Sorolla in black

MADRID – The temporary exhibition ‘Sorolla in black’, on view until 27 November 2022, reveals ‘the darkest palette of the painter of light’ at the Sorolla Museum in Madrid. 

The exhibition comprises a selection of 62 works, including previously unpublished works from private collections. The exhibition is curated by Carlos Reyero Hermosilla. He is professor of art history and former director of the Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia.  

Away from clichés 

The works in the exhibition deny much of the critical tradition surrounding Sorolla. Therefore, they challenge the cliché of the painter of light and colour. Sorolla in Black’ also addresses the aesthetic and cultural appreciation of black and grey in painting. It invites us to consider ‘the confrontation with black. And to look at its meanings, values or soul suggestions in relation to the poetics of the artist’. The exhibition shows that black, the antithesis of colour, was ‘notoriously’ present in Sorolla’s palette throughout his career.  

Spanish tradition 

The use of black in his work stems from the Spanish pictorial tradition to become ‘an element of expressiveness that he reinterpreted as a colour that translates the modernity of his time and its sober elegance’. This idea, which forms the basis of the exhibition’s narrative, is divided into four thematic sections;

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  • ‘Harmonies in black and grey’
  • ‘Symbolic black’
  • ‘Black and dark surfaces’
  • ‘Monochrome’

Special selection 

The exhibition comprises a careful selection of 62 works, most of which, 42, come from the collections of the Museo Sorolla and the Fundación Museo Sorolla. Thirteen works are from private collections, some of which have not yet been published, and a further seven are from the Museo Nacional del Prado, the Banco de España and the Museo de Málaga.  

Of the total number of works, 41 are paintings, including the ‘Retrato de Manuel Bartolomé Cossío‘ (1908), which is on display in Spain for the first time in decades, and the ‘Retrato de Juan Antonio García del Castillo‘ (1887), recently acquired by the Ministry of Culture and Sport for the Sorolla Museum.  

Also noteworthy is the work ‘S.M Reina María Cristina. Estudio para La Regencia’ (1903-1905), recently restored for the exhibition. The exhibition is completed by a drawing, a gouache, 17 photographs, an album and a book, which put the ideas to be conveyed into context. 

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