Capturing Sunlight with Sorolla


Joaquín Sorolla, Strolling along the Seashore, Detail, Valencia, 1909

Inside the Artist’s Studio

In the heart of bustling Madrid, behind a protective brick wall, sits the elegant former home and studio of Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863 -1923)

Huge decorative iron gates lead you through a lush Andalusian courtyard garden to one of the best-preserved artist houses in Europe, an absolutely priceless experience. 




Joaquín Sorolla is one of the great names in 20th-century Spanish painting, known for his confident brush strokes and radiant colour palette. He loved to paint from life and if possible en plein air, sun-drenched beach scenes, luminous portraits and empathetic scenes of everyday life.

He was influenced by his contemporaries, the Impressionists, and absorbed their use of colour with separate brushstrokes applied to maintain spontaneity.

Monet once described him as ‘the Master of Light’.

However, Sorolla considered himself to be closer in style to other painters of his day such as John Singer Sargent, Whistler, and Anders Zorn.

These artists shared the Impressionists interest in light but maintained a more comprehensive approach to the figure and a discipline of line that revealed their rigorous academic training.

“I could not paint at all if I had to paint slowly. Every effect is so transient, it must be rapidly painted.”

– Joaquín Sorolla


Joaquín Sorolla, Garden at Casa Sorolla



The early years


I like how Sorolla dressed for work! Brogues and all.

Joaquín Sorolla (pronounced Wah-keen So-roy-uh) was born in Valencia on February 27th in 1863. When he was just two years old, both parents died during a Cholera epidemic, leaving Joaquin and his younger sister Concha, orphaned.

They were cared for by their maternal aunt and uncle who at an early age recognized Sorolla’s artistic gifts and encouraged him to paint and draw.

At fifteen, Sorolla entered the school of Fine Arts in Valencia making good friends with Juan Antonio Garcia del Castillo. Juan’s father Antonio Garcia, an established photographer, immediately became Sorolla’s patron and father figure throughout his early years.

At the age of eighteen, he travelled to Madrid to study Old Master paintings in the Museo del Prado and by the age of twenty-two had been awarded a painting grant, giving him the opportunity to study painting in Rome, Italy.

During that period, a long residency in Paris exposed Sorolla to the Naturalist painting movement, which had a profound impact on him.

Artists such as Jules Bastien-Lepage practiced an artistic style called Naturalism that represented subjects in a more realistic way, the depiction of ordinary, everyday subjects, rather than using an idealized classical composition.


A full-length portrait of Clotilde with a glimpse of Sorolla looking on through the reflection in the mirror.

Clotilde (detail)

In 1888, Sorolla returned to Valencia to marry Clotilde García del Castillo, whom he had first met in 1879 while working in her father’s photography studio.

Following their return to Madrid, they settled and started a family, having 3 children, Maria, Joaquín & Elena.

It was at this point that Sorolla really began to make a name for himself. All his influences came together to develop his own artistic style. Alongside commissioned works, he portrayed Clotilde many times throughout his career and they’re often personal informal paintings of her and the children capturing family life.

Joaquín Sorolla, Mother, 1895

With large areas of muted tonal greys and ochres, this composition really focuses the view on the relationship between mother and child, by the use of stronger colour in the faces, and the high level of dark contrast introduced by Clotilde hair.

Joaquín Sorolla, Mother, Detail, 1895

It’s reminiscent of the Whistler painting, most commonly known as ‘Whistler’s Mother’

Arrangement in Grey and Black No 1

James McNeill Whistler, Arrangement in Grey and Black No 1, (Whistler’s Mother), 1871

The same simple lines, the muted palette and the side profile of the sitter.

The abstract elements seem to have been as fascinating for Sorolla as Whistler. The real title of the portrait of Anna Whistler is ‘Arrangement in Grey and Black No 1’

It’s more reminiscent of an Abstract Impressionist title than an ode to the relationship of mother and son, Anna Whistler was a stand-in for a model.

Sorolla takes this concept and creates a much more personal, tender painting of the relationship between mother and child.

The museum


The fantastic red walls contrast brilliantly with all the greenery and the yellow ochre tones as you step up into the first gallery from the serene courtyard garden outside.


Joaquín Sorolla, Desnudo

I love how tonal this subtle portrait is and the way that Sorolla has kept such a large area of the background relatively simple to aid the strength of the composition. You can often be tempted to add interest to every area of your painting, but this is a real case of less is more. Focus the viewer in on the main subject of your painting by keeping the background clean and uncluttered.


Joaquín Sorolla, My Children, 1904

Adjacent is a strong chiaroscuro group study of his children. Again, you can see the way that over two-thirds of the painting is a very simple, flat, dark tone. This way your attention is drawn to the faces illuminated within the darkness. Sorolla’s love of red is used to great effect to bring the dress into focus.


Joaquín Sorolla, My Children, Detail, 1904

To balance the intensity of the strong red, he’s used a simple abstract block of warmer brown on the right-hand side. It looks to be the edge of a canvas and is said to be a nod to Las Meninas (Spanish for The Ladies-in-Waiting) by Diego Velázquez, one of Sorolla’s favorite painters.

Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas, Detail. Notice the compositional use of the back of the canvas on the side of the composition.

Throughout Sorolla’s work, there is always a strong compositional style and use of simple abstract elements that balance the painting or give us a sense of place.


Joaquín Sorolla, Self Portrait, 1909

Also on the first wall, there is a small self-portrait of Sorolla, displaying his palette.


You can see a simple limited palette of Cadmium Red, Titanium White and Yellow Ochre, it reminded me of Zorn’s self-portrait (whom Sorolla also admired)

Anders Zorn, Self-portrait. (see Discovering Zorn, the Petit Palais & Patisseries in Paris)



Joaquín Sorolla, White Slave Trade, 1895


Joaquín Sorolla, White Slave Trade, Detail, 1895

The White Slave Trade painting is a great example of Sorolla commenting on the conditions of the lower social classes, showing four young prostitutes weary, dozing together in a somber third-class railway carriage under the watchful eye of their Madame.

When looking at the detail on some of the faces in this atmospheric portrait you can see Sorolla’s use of Grisaille. He’s kept the majority of the rendering of the face in tones of grey, just with a slight splash of colour in the cheeks and the nose. This contrasts with the warm browns and umbers surroundings the figures, giving them a gaunt, almost ghostly, lifeless look. You can also see signs of a warm ground colour, in the thinly applied paint on the top left-hand side of this detail.

An international following

Sorolla regularly participated in the leading art competitions, winning lots of awards throughout the next few years, he sent large-format paintings with subjects relating to contemporary society with the aim of becoming well known.

‘Sewing the Sail’ painted in 1896, represented a new direction with greater luminosity and a lighter subject matter, freer brushstrokes and a more energetic effect of light.

Joaquín Sorolla, Sewing the Sail, 1896

Sorolla was amazing at painting white objects, creating that range of subtle colours when dappled sunlight hits clothes. In this, one of his most celebrated works, the importance of the sail has become the main character of the painting. On the bottom half there is a subtle juxtaposition between warm muted yellow ochres and pastel purple greys.


The main body of the sail is very close in tonal value, but the differences in the folds and weight of the sail are expressed by changing the colour temperature. He then ‘grounds’ the sails by painting dark accents in the crumpled folds on the floor. It’s also got this amazing sense of depth to the beach in the far distance that the triangular shape of the composition guides our eyes towards.

Joaquín Sorolla, Clotilde on the Beach, 1904

Here again, with this seated portrait of Clotilde on the beach you’re almost squinting at the scene as you can imagine the harsh mid-day sun backlighting the sitter. This painting shows there are much cooler shadows on her white dress.

There is a similar rendering to the bottom of both of these paintings.

A central main character, colour in the whites, surrounded by a muted ochre tone with dark accents and a strong shadow shape.

As we looked at in a previous article, The Secret to Painting Realistic Shadows in Sunlight, you can see how Sorolla painted many of the shadows at a mid-grey value (or darker) to give him space at the lighter end of the value scale to keep the impression of bright sunlight.

Capturing sunlight


Joaquín Sorolla, Strolling along the Seashore, Valencia, 1909

Sorolla’s productivity was really remarkable. He painted many large-scale paintings en plein air with elaborate easels set up on the beach.

In 1906 aged 43, Sorolla arranged his first solo exhibition in Paris showing 497 works which achieved huge critical success and succeeded in establishing Sorolla’s international reputation.

He enjoyed a period of rest in Biarritz where his painting evolved towards a refined elegance, and brilliance of colour that was new to him, also making regular trips back home to Valencia.

For the rest of his career, he drew his inspiration from the dazzling light on water and his beach scenes are marked by sharp contrasts of light and shade and vigorous brushstrokes.

‘I hate darkness. Claude Monet once said that painting, in general, did not have light enough in it. I agree with him. We painters, however, can never reproduce sunlight as it really is. I can only approach the truth of it.”

Joaquín Sorolla

Joaquín Sorolla, Time for a Bathe, Valencia, 1909

In another of Sorolla’s paintings inspired by the Valencia beaches, you can see how he expertly balances the complementary colour temperature of yellow and purple. Using warm yellow for the lights and cool muted purple for the shadows. The bright sunlight and sunlit water really glimmer throughout this painting.


Joaquín Sorolla, Time for a Bathe, Detail, Valencia, 1909

He then balances the colour harmony by introducing the blush pink on the dress, and you can see the glimpse of the same pink on the lower right-hand side of the painting. Notice how, when isolated, the warm yellow on the arm appears much stronger in this crop. When you flick back to the full image, see how Sorolla has used the same colours on the figure on the far left, to move our eye throughout the painting, both on the dress, and the cast shadow in the wet sand.


Joaquín Sorolla, Antonio García at the Beach, 1909

This glimpse of Antonio García shows a frame within a frame to capture a portrait of Sorolla’s father-in-law. Notice how the background behind García has been split into three distinct abstract lines that very simply describe the whole atmosphere of the setting in a very succinct way. The background and window frame gives us a sense of place and that look of contemplation.

The studio

Sorolla’s studio space is vast in scale with amazingly high ceilings, and whilst the light was quite subdued on the day of my visit, this isn’t necessarily the light Sorolla would have painted under.

There is a row of high-level windows, around a 45-degree angle from his easel with a large curtain covering them over, drawn back the space would be flooded with light. Opposite these, are a set of tall glass doors connected to an open courtyard in the centre of the building, which can be opened bringing in Sorolla’s love of his garden. These are covered in a white fabric blind giving diffusion and more control over the balance of light in the studio.

Sorolla poised in his studio with paintings packed onto the walls

This space provided a fabulous gallery as well as a working environment and you can see from this old photograph how closely the paintings are packed next to each other. It’s quite rare to have such a strong wall colour as a backdrop in a studio, but Sorolla mostly painted outside and when he did paint in his studio, there wasn’t much red showing to be distracted by.


It was interesting to spot a daybed in the studio, much the same as in Cezanne’s. It seems all artists often feel that reflective need for an afternoon nap.

Going further into the space, my first impression of the daybed had to be reassessed. Sorolla had raised the bar and had a four poster bed placed right next to his easel!


Here you can see the length of the brush handles Sorolla used, they are about 2ft (60cm) long. Many of his paintings are pretty big so he would place his palette flat on a table and then be able to dip the bristles into the paint and swing the brush to the canvas whilst still keeping his eyes on the model. They were mostly round hog brushes.

Sorolla in his studio holding a collection of three of four long handled brushes in one hand. He has a tabletop glass table palette and a smaller wooden palette resting on the foot of the easel.


The other brushes on display were shorter handled filbert shaped brushes. The shape of the end of the brush is quite sharp, so this would have given a nice balance of a direct, stroke line, with a slightly softened edge.


Bronze Sorolla Bust


Just outside the entrance to the studio, there is a small internal doorbell.


No disruptions were needed when Sorolla was engrossed in a piece (or a nap).

The big commission

Joaquín Sorolla, The Pink Robe after the Bath, 1916

In 1909, the Hispanic Society of America hosted an exhibition of Sorolla’s works in New York City, of the 356 paintings on show, a total of 195 were sold.

By 1910 Sorolla began designing No 37 Casa Sorolla, complete with its large studios and gardens. Around the same time, the Hispanic Society commissioned Sorolla to produce a major series of vast panels celebrating the life and customs of the different regions of Spain. The panels were nearly 12 ft (3.6 meters) tall and 200 ft (61 meters) in combined length.

From the time he started work in 1912 on the commission ‘A Vision of Spain‘ with its extremely large panels, Sorolla was required to travel frequently across the different regions to capture the scenes, often in difficult conditions, which affected his health.

During downtime from this monumental task, he produced some of his most light-filled paintings, such as the Pink Robe in 1916. He also spent time planning, pruning and painting the gardens of his new home, where he created many of the personal paintings that are on display at the house.

This enormous and exhausting undertaking was to dominate the next 8 years of Sorolla’s life, although he still managed to find time to paint some of his most stunning beach scenes.


Joaquín Sorolla, The Pink Robe after the Bath, Detail, 1916

From Seville to Sorolla

Courtyard in the Real Alcazar Gardens (Royal Gardens), Seville


Joaquín Sorolla, Palace of Pond, Royal Gardens in Seville, 1910

I’d traveled to Madrid from Seville, having followed in the footsteps of Velázquez and whilst there, experienced the most amazing gardens of the Real Alcazar.

These are large gardens carefully arranged into smaller spaces surrounded by architectural pieces with the subtle presence of water.

Stepping into the courtyard of Sorolla’s home, I hadn’t realized he had been inspired by the Seville gardens for his own design. In fact, he had painted there on a number of occasions from 1908 onwards. He admired the combination of colours, aromas, and structures.


Sorolla’s garden was designed to be painted and enjoyed by his family, a social space where the artist could receive elegant clients and friends for lively debates and afternoon tea.

During his lifetime the garden was a sunny retreat, filled with flowering plants producing amazing scents but above all displayed harmonious colours chosen with his artistic vision.




Garden sketch using Muji 0.5mm fine liner, TomBow Grey N75, Pentel Black Brushpen


In 1920 painting in his garden he suffered a stroke that left him unable to paint again. He died in 1923.


Joaquín Sorolla, The Garden, Casa Sorolla, 1920

Sorolla sat in the wicker chair to paint, so it seems poignant that one of his last paintings was of the empty chair surrounded by the garden oasis he created that gave him so much pleasure.

So if you’re in your studio dreaming of that one big commission to come knocking on your door, spare a thought for the inspiration around you.

Sometimes the grass is greenest at home.

You can visit:

The Museo Sorolla Studio in Madrid, Tuesday to Sundays.

The Sorolla museum was Sorolla’s last house in Madrid and he had it built when he was already a fully established artist and lived there from 1911 until he died in 1923. His family bequeathed the house to the state in order to create the museum and gallery, which opened in 1932. It has been preserved with almost all the decoration intact as it would have been during the life of Joaquín Sorolla.

p.s. I’ve just found out (thanks to Alastair!) there is a Sorolla Show coming to the National Gallery, London in Spring 2019. You can read more details here: Sorolla, Spanish Master of Light


This Post Has 169 Comments

  1. Barbara

    Dear Will …

    Having morning coffee, the Sun is shining, the Hollyhocks still bloom but there is a chill in the air. How wonderful to see your visit to sunny Madrid … And Sorolla! When I taught painting in Penzance and volunteered in the Penlee Gallery there someone brought me a postcard with a painting of Mother and Child painted enplein aire. They wondered had been to his museum and thought he may have known of the Newlyn School/Barbizon painters. I still remember the beautiful pastel colours, the brush strokes and the sensitivity of his work.
    Thank you so much for your email.

    1. Will Kemp

      Morning Barbara, yes they do have a Newlyn School edge to them don’t they, so pleased you enjoyed it.

  2. Gaby Hulin

    Hello Will
    Thank you very much for your email I did not know this painter Amazing
    Next time I will not fail to still visit it
    Best greetings

    1. Will Kemp

      Glad you enjoyed learning about Sorolla’s work Gaby.

  3. Joanne

    Hello Will, thank you again for more stunning pictures and information. Oh! I really love his work. Thank you very much Will.xJo

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Joanne, hope you’re well.

  4. Lisa Strickland-Clark

    Thanks for that fabulous piece on Sorolla. He is just about my favorite painter at the moment, with his wonderful, wonderful depiction of light. I lived in Madrid for a year a long time ago and didn’t know about him then. What a shame I missed seeing it all in the flesh.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Lisa, so glad you enjoyed, yes they really have a luminous quality to them.

  5. Jan davies

    Thank you Will . What a complete pleasure it was to receive this wonderful email of your experience and sharing it with us. Rain pouring down here. The pictures have brought such thoughts of sunshine on a dull morning. A feel a trip to Madrid is on my ‘ bucket’ list.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Jan, yes it’s a fabulous city with some really great collections.

  6. Katherine

    Thank you Will for this – I’d never heard of him, but those are such wonderful paintings! All those tones of white… To think he did the paintings quickly, and yet managed such amazing and unobtrusive draftsmanship – just the geometry of the fountain would take hours for most of us!
    I thought the painting of the four girls extremely sad.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Katherine, yes he had that amazing balance of speed, gesture and accuracy in his works. Glad you enjoyed discovering his work.

  7. Janny

    Thank you so much Will. Love the pictures and information!

  8. Joanna Segal

    Hola Will from Mallorca. Another really good article and when I read your last one about Cast Shadows I was going to comment about Sorolla. I have found that not many English people that I talk to have heard of him! Living and trying to paint in Spain of course we love his work and there was an exhibition of his paintings in Palma where we went to study all his different whites and his purple shadows. I have a book of his paintings and now thanks to you I can see so much more in them. I hope to go to Madrid soon and will definitely go to see his garden and studio as well as Velazques Meninas at the Prado. I have been to the Alcazar in Sevilla and when I returned was inspired to do a painting of my sister at the café with one of the peacocks!
    Thank you so much once again. Joanna

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Joanna, nice to hear from you and glad you caught his paintings in Palma. Yes, the Alcazar is such an inspiring place isn’t it.

  9. Mike Todd

    Nice job bringing these works and life to us

  10. susan

    Marvellous post as ever Will, what a Bank Holiday treat – thank you!

  11. Charles Parry

    Oh Will – you really are something. I have ‘flicked’ through the email and am fascinated. I will find time to study and learn. You always seem to come up with that special something about painters some of us have not come across.
    By the way, you are a talented photographer. The detail of your visit would have been lost without the beautiful pics. I do assume that Will Kemp has a daybed in his studio as with all other great artists!!!

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re very kind Charles, and yes, a daybed should be filed under beginner essentials!

  12. Ingrid

    Excellent post. Thank you. You’ve added much cheer, to an otherwise dreary morning, with your storytelling.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Ingrid, so pleased you enjoyed.

  13. Maria

    Will, is always such a pleasure to receive your emails, this one is amazing just as your others. I learn so much through all your information and details, your amazing photography and sketches , is truly very gratifying and inspirational. Thank you so much for sharing all of this, Looking forward to your next one. Best regards.

    1. Will Kemp

      That’s very kind of you Maria, my pleasure.

  14. David

    Great post. Sorolla is a favorite.

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers David, hope you and the family are well.

  15. Colleen

    Thank you Will for feeding our artistic souls! This inspires me to keep on learning and just ‘doing’. I appreciate the window you provide into your world. Happy painting and regards from Holland.

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re so right Colleen, ‘just doing’ makes the biggest difference, as Woody Allen is famously quoted to have said “80% of success in life is just showing up

  16. Linda Harris

    Thanks so much for sharing your trip. On this hot Texas morning, I feel like I’ve had a respite in Spain. I didn’t know this artist and appreciate your article. Thanks again
    Linda Harris

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Linda, glad you enjoyed learning about Sorolla.

  17. Jean

    Hello Will,
    Thanks for the wonderful introduction to Sorolla.
    I love reading of your adventures.
    Kindest regards

  18. Charm

    Thank you Will, I very much enjoyed this look into the painters life.

  19. Margo

    Thank you for all the effort you put into this article. I never knew about Joaquín Sorolla, but I have always loved that first painting featured of those two women. Not only did I learn a ton this morning about a painter I did not know, as an added bonus, I will no longer feel guilty when taking a snooze in my studio room. Win/win.

    1. Will Kemp

      Ha, ha very true Margo! a snooze should never be guilty when creating!

  20. Margaret Petcher

    I’m ashamed to say I haven’t come across Sorolla and can’t imagine why! What an amazing artist! I must concur with one of the above artists about your brilliant photographer! Well done!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks very much Margaret, glad you enjoyed the photos and learning about a new artist.

  21. Barbra Joan

    Will, I am thoroughly enjoying the trip into this artists life and work. My desire to paint bright light ,especially white fabric is making this peek into these paintings a real treat.
    I’m a big fan of the American painter Frank W. Benson for the same reason . The same treatment of whites from 2 artists living in the same times.
    Can’t thank you enough for this very informative newsletter.
    Wishing you all good things,
    Barbra Joan

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Barbra, so pleased it was timely with your current interest in painting fabric, it can be such an endearing subject.

  22. Beverly Anderson

    Dear Will,
    Thank you very much for your generous new post about Sorolla. I had never heard of him, to my shame! As always , you pointed out some important technical details, such as his muted backgrounds. This couldn’t be more timely, as I am in the early stages of an ambitious painting of a Jamaican stonecutter. I have been struggling with what to show of the background, since the real focus is the woman atop her pile of stones. Thanks to your excellent teaching, I will feel free to mute it! With affection and thanks, as ever, Beverly A

    1. Will Kemp

      Great to hear it Beverly, yes it can be a real pull sometimes to feel you have to fill a painting. Hope the muting down of your background does the trick.

  23. Barbara Neill

    Hi Will,
    Thank you so much for introducing me to Sorolla and his beautiful painting. I am in awe how he treated the color white. The texture and light is exquisite. Loved every minute of your blog. Keep the education of artists going.
    With good wishes,
    Barbara Neill

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Barbara, so kind of you to say so.

  24. Mella

    Hi Will, I really enjoyed your email. I have newly joined your email list and I am so happy I did. I had not heard of Sorolla before but his work is amazing. I love hearing about his background and inspiration. Thanks. Mella

    1. Will Kemp

      Welcome along Melia! so glad you enjoyed learning about Sorolla and his life.

  25. Janice Tortoriello

    What a fabulous way to start the day! I have enjoyed this email so much, can’t even begin to imagine what it was like being there. Very grateful to you for sharing your visit with Sorolla, including the art lesson was a bonus. I always learn a great deal from your blog (which looks fabulous )!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks very much Janice, hope it gave a brief glimpse into the house.

  26. EdieB

    Your e-mails are a wonderful learning experience and a joy to read. Your story and Photos about Sorolla were a inspiring delight. Thanks You.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks so much Edith, my pleasure.

  27. Wendy

    HI Will, Just received your newsletter, I am always excited to read them and especially the ones about artists you admire. I have to admit as an artist, I had never heard of Sorolla before, but today it was as if I had a personal guide and toured the museum too. As always so detailed and educational.
    Thank You So Much.
    Kind Regards

    1. Will Kemp

      My absolute pleasure Wendy, great to hear you enjoyed learning about his work.

  28. Viv Adams

    I hadn’t heard of Sorolla before this Will and so glad I know of him now, very sad that he had a stroke and wasn’t able to paint after that. I found this painting style very interesting as I’ve just completed a painting of white flowers, many in shade and found it so difficult. I say “finished” but really could have fiddled and faffed with it forevermore.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Viv, yes, there is a great freshness and painterly quality to his floral studies, glad you’ve enjoyed them.

  29. Enrique Viturro

    Will, excellent article on Sorolla! I’ll share with members of my Guild.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks very much Enrique, glad you enjoyed it and thanks for sharing with your Guild members, very much appreciated.

  30. Frances Pizzino

    I will keep your email forever….thank you very much!

    1. Will Kemp

      Ha, ha, you’re too kind Frances.

  31. Philomena Simpson

    Absolutely stunning with a wealth of information as well.
    Well Done Sir

  32. Terry Hand

    Thank you for the article and for introducing me to the work of Sorolla. I love Spanish art, but for some reason I was not at all familiar with his paintings. These are really beautiful. The portrait of his wife is just stunning. The darker paintings are to me, similar in feel to the work of some of the Russian painters of the same period, particularly “Desnudo” and “The White Slave Trade”. Could it be that the sheer power of modernism has blinded us to all of the other things that were going on at the same time?

    I would love to be able to paint Alla Prima, but it is just so difficult. I think you need a huge amount of confidence – or maybe just a willingness to fail. If that makes sense.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Terry, yes makes complete sense. ‘A willingness to fail’ absolutely encapsulates it. You have to give yourself permission to paint some bad paintings first, we all do!

  33. Jane Kirsten

    Hi Will – A really great article. Good to learn of Sorolla’s absorption with light. My country is known for bright sunshine and find his style inspiring. For me the sail-sewing painting recalls Monet and the cafes of the Paris Impressionists. I loved the way you compared artists, also the photograph of the elderly man with the straw hat! Thank you for this uplifting piece. Jane

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks very much Jane, glad you enjoyed the article and seeing the comparisons between different painters.

  34. karen in westside Houston, Texas

    Will, what a giving thing to do, letting us see into a gifted artists life, Sorolla. Thank you

    1. Will Kemp

      My pleasure Karen, so pleased you enjoyed it.

  35. Sally Browning Pearson

    Thank you Will, That was almost like being there myself. I have forwarded this to my friend Frank Hammerstrom.

    1. Will Kemp

      That’s very kind of you to do so Sally, so pleased you enjoyed the article.

  36. Vicky Kirby

    I so look forward to your blogs and as always a wonderful commentary on an amazing artist! Your photos are so clear you feel like you are there. Maybe a new class from you on painting whites a la Sorolla? Thanks again for posting as each time I get a more sensitive “artistic” view of these fabulous works of art.

    1. Will Kemp

      That’s very kind of you Vicky and brilliant to hear that the articles have helped you to gain some extra insights into the works.

  37. Patricia

    Will, thank you for sharing this wonderful art!

  38. Jamela

    Thank you for sharing Will. I hope one day to visit Sorolla’s studio. I agree with the fancy bed and couch. LOL!

    1. Will Kemp

      Ha, ha, yes Jamela the bed seems like an excellent idea!

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Alastair, good to hear from you. Thanks for the note about the Sorolla show at the National, sounds great! I’ll add a link to the post.

  39. Erica Bodwell

    Just wonderful, Will. This post gave me the idea to use muted purple in the white jug I am painting instead of just Paine’s grey :)

    1. Will Kemp

      Fantastic stuff Erica, hope the paintings goes well.

  40. George McLean

    Thank you, Will. Sorolla deserves to be seen more often.
    I see you are a fan of Cezanne’s landscapes. I particularly like his late landscapes that seem to predict cubism/abstraction. I’m copying one right now and it reveals so much.

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers George, yes I do like a Cezanne. Pleased your master-copy is a teaching in itself.

  41. Catherine

    Thank you so much for sharing the visit! Inspiring indeed!

  42. Sandy Deane

    Wonderful fulsome article – thanks for sharing your experience Will – I truly appreciate your “gems” arriving in my inbox!

  43. Tom Bolger

    Thanks very much for this lovely treat.
    For sharing this visit with those of us who have not been to this museum and can only see many of these works when they are brought to a large museum exhibit. Tom Bolger
    Greetings from beautiful Cragsmoor N.Y.

    1. Will Kemp

      My pleasure Tom, hope it helped to give an insight into the museum.

  44. Tom Hohn

    What a wonderful article accompanied by equally fantastic photos. I have long admired Sorolla’s use of light in his paintings. Thank you for the comprehensive tour and bio of the original “Painter of Light”.

  45. Oksanna

    Thanks, Will, for the all the details you point out about shadow and light, balancing colours and about composition. You help me “see” so much more. I love Sorolla, too. All the best from Canada!

    1. Will Kemp

      So pleased it helped with a new way of looking at the pieces.

  46. Monica Meitin

    As an amateur artist, I enjoyed your article very much. I gives me much inspiration. Thank you.

    1. Will Kemp

      Great that you’re feeling inspired Monica.

  47. CHERYL


    1. Will Kemp

      So glad you enjoyed the paintings Cheryl.

  48. Tamara Torres

    Amazing article!! Thanks a lot Will. Sorolla is one of my favourite painters

  49. Marie-Claude Cook

    Fascinating, Will. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience. You’ve shared your enthusiastic journey with real skill. I feel I am now a little bit more knowledgeable!

    1. Will Kemp

      That’s brilliant to hear Marie-Claude.

  50. Liz

    Aloha, Will! I really enjoyed this! It was an inspiring experience listening to your narration and much like visiting Sorolla’s home and gallery in real life. I love his work! Thank you so much, ~Liz

  51. Terry

    Thank you Will for this excellent article and bringing the great artist into my focus again.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks for reading Terry, pleased you enjoyed it.

  52. Jules Forth

    Thank you for this beautiful and insightful piece with fabulous illustrations. Despite doing a degree in History of Art I’m ashamed to say I’d never even come across Sorolla .. what a joy to discover a new artist!

    1. Will Kemp

      My pleasure Jules really pleased you enjoyed learning about Sorolla’s work.

  53. Valeriy

    Thank you very much, Will, for this info!
    Very informative.
    Unfortunately, I didn’t know about this artist :(

  54. Ann

    What a lovely way to spend a dull winter afternoon in NZ. Lying on the couch in front of the fire and reading about and looking at beautiful paintings.

  55. Lennie Robson

    Your way of educating lifts my soul Will, thanks for so much information and photos, you’re the best.

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re very kind Lennie, pleased you enjoyed the photos.

  56. Nivedita Gouda

    Hi Will,
    This is Nivedita from India, if not for your email I wouldn’t have been introduced to Sorolla, his amazing work and life journey. Your creativity extends to storytelling as well, loved the way you picturised the whole visit and brought it live to all. Thank you so much.

    1. Will Kemp

      Well, that’s brilliant to hear Nivedita and glad you enjoyed the (brief) story of his life!

  57. rachel Sleightholm

    What a beautiful start to my day…..opening & reading this glorious email before beginning work on the PC!! Thank you Will <3

  58. jennifer sutton

    thanks Will as always your articles are of immense interest

    1. Will Kemp

      I’m so glad you found the post of interest, Jennifer.

  59. Richard Austin

    Really fabulous Will, thank you so much for sharing your photos and thoughts. I love your thoughtful and insightful articles. Sorolla was a great artist, I’ve just discovered someone new! Those amazing whites, wow.
    Inspiring to see his studio, his brushes, where he worked, the man comes alive. Oh, to live in a house like that…!
    If you’re ever visit Ottawa, let us know :)

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks very much Richard, very kind of you to say so. Glad you enjoyed learning about a new artist.

  60. Ian Gouldsbrough

    Many thanks for reawakening my appreciation of his skill. I think the RA had an exhibition years ago which was the first time I saw his work. Wonderful style. There are many You Tube videos but your article really goes to the heart of his technique and underscores your obvious artistic knowledge. I join the contributors who have complimented you on your photography. You bring the studio to life. Well done.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Ian, thanks very much, glad you enjoyed the tour and photos. I’ve just found out from another reader (thanks Alastair!) that there is a Sorolla exhibition coming to the National in Spring 2019 you might be interested in.

  61. Irena Vardavas

    Thank you Will for your email. Loved the articled, have heard of Sorolla but obviously not very familiar with his work. Thank you for again for sharing the beautiful photos.

    1. Will Kemp

      Really glad you enjoyed it Irena.

  62. Hilda Rogers

    Thank you, Will – Really enjoyed this post on Sorolla! He’s new to me and I LOVE the way he handles sunlight and his whites, he’s right up there with John Singer Sargent isn’t he?! I am still plugging your blog and website to my artist friends and anyone else who I think will be interested, actually! ;-) Keep doing what you’re doing, you do it so well!!

    1. Will Kemp

      That’s very kind of you Hilda, glad you enjoyed learning about his work.

  63. Sue Tytler

    Thank you, Will, the posts you send after enjoying various trips are very inspiring! thank you!

  64. Sheila

    Lovely article thanks Will, really enjoyed reading it.

  65. Karin van Herwijnen

    Thank you Will, I also enjoyed your article a lot. The work of this beautiful artist comes even more to life in the way you are describing they way he uses the different pigments. Thank you, it teaches me a lot – again – about painting. I am very grateful about the way you freely share your knowledge, really impressive! Thank you.

    By the way, I love the new look of your website.

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re so welcome Karin, really glad you enjoyed learning about Sorolla, and pleased you like the new look.

  66. Diane

    So fascinating!! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Will Kemp

      My pleasure Diane, really pleased you enjoyed it.

  67. Nicolle

    yep!!!! one more interesting one…i enjoyed it ….waiting for your next one…thank you Will…i learn a lot in a very pleasant way.

  68. Kate Warthen

    Thank you for this wonderful and extensive blog post. I have only recently become aquatinted with Joaquin Sorolla and in fact purchased “The Masterworks”, a very important addition to my collection of art books. I appreciate the time you took to create this post. Your comments are so thought provoking and I think any artist can be inspired by and learn from Sorolla, so it is good that the word is getting out.

    1. Will Kemp

      Sounds like a timely purchase Kate, so pleased you enjoyed the Sorolla article.

  69. Dr.Bharat khokhani(Surat)

    Will, wonderful article…thank you so much for sharing the visit !!!

  70. Jo Leonard

    What a journey you just took me on! Thanks for sharing.
    P.S. I especially like the picture of him painting in a suit.

    1. Will Kemp

      My pleasure Jo, so pleased you enjoyed it.

  71. Katerina

    Thank you so much Will for all the precious information you always provide. Sorolla is one of my favorite artists and your article was like an unexpected gift for me. I tried to reproduce his painting “White roses” with acrylics and I am really satisfied with my result as an amateur.

    1. Will Kemp

      So pleased it was interesting to you Katerina, hope it gave you an insight into his working practice.

  72. Stephie

    Will, such fantastic paintings, photography and write-up that feel as though I was there with you. I look forward to seeing Sorolla at the National Gallery next year. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re very kind Stephie, really glad you liked it.

  73. Norbert

    Will, thanks for yet another interesting article, this time giving some insights into the work of a painter I wasn’t really familiar with.

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Norbert, pleased you enjoyed learning about a new artist.

  74. Patrick Halloran

    Hello Will ,
    Thank you for introducing me to the wonderful work of Joaquín Sorolla — I did not know of him .
    Truly beautiful paintings and so rich in sunshine — a much longed for thing in Britain and Ireland !
    Best wishes ,
    Patrick Halloran .

    1. Will Kemp

      So pleased you enjoyed learning about Sorolla’s work Patrick.

  75. John Barry

    Hi Will, I have been to his house too. But over a decade ago and I don’t recall a special gallery. Thought I was the only one to appreciate Sorolla’s genius. Spookily enough I bought a print of the same painting that features first in your article : Strolling along the Beach. Admire it every day. Small world.

    1. Will Kemp

      It’s a lovely painting isn’t it John, glad you enjoyed it.

  76. Lila Stephenson Petersen

    Thanks so much for introducing Sorolla to me. I can not wait to visit Madrid once again and this house will be a must see. Lila

    1. Will Kemp

      My pleasure Lila, glad you enjoyed learning about his work.

    1. Will Kemp

      Good one, really pleased you’re feeling inspired.

  77. Anita Tipping

    Dear Will, thank you for the e-mail. I am not familiar with the works of Joaquin Sorolla at all. I am a novice when it comes to painting but I am in awe in how he paints the sunlight and the shadows in his works. I enjoyed looking at his paintings attached to your e-mail. I attended a painting course last month and the tutor showed us some of Sorollas paintings of (sun)light and shadows. They are inspiring. Thank you, Will

    1. Will Kemp

      Really pleased you enjoyed learning about Sorolla’s work Anita, he’s got such a lovely way with painting sunlight.

  78. Robert T

    Nice post however, this only furthers my resolve in that it is necessary for me put away the brush and canvass, never attempting such foolishness again as anything I have created is of such poor quality and continues to be so. It also gives me pause as to how much time and money I have squandered on this pursuit that may have been used in a manner that would benefit my fellow man, rather than the accumulated loss spent in an attempt to foster talent that is and has been so apparently absent in myself.

  79. Ramona

    Hi Will, thank you so much for introducing me to such a great painter. Your thoughts and clear explanations about shadow and light, balancing , color and composition has helped me a lot on hows to look at paintings. Again thank you for sharing such a wonderful experience.

    1. Will Kemp

      So pleased you enjoyed learning about Sorolla Ramona.

  80. Michele

    Thank you for this introduction. Thanks especially for the thoughtful examination of select pieces – I particularly appreciated your discussion of brush strokes and composition/tonal/color choices. I’ve just asked the MFA Boston if they’d consider bringing the London exhibition here. I have to think Sorolla would have loved our light in Provincetown and the outer Cape.

    1. Will Kemp

      So pleased you enjoyed it Michele.

  81. Lynda Dinneen

    How did I miss this article!?!?! Excellent Will, and for me, perfect timing with the show opening… Thank you!

    1. Will Kemp

      Good one Lynda, hope you enjoy the exhibition.

  82. gerald

    Referring to “Time For A Bathe” , you write,

    When you flick back to the full image, see how Sorolla has used the same colours on the figure on the far left, to move our eye throughout the painting, both on the dress, and the cast shadow in the wet sand.

    I’m wondering if you meant the cast shadows or the reflection on the sand.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Gerald, the purple cast shadows form the figures on the sand.

  83. Louise

    Hya Will, I am up in the middle of the night again, reading and learning plus enjoying very much indeed ~ amazing posts, just beautiful.
    Many thanks indeed ~

    1. Will Kemp

      Glad you’ve been enjoying them Louise.

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