Global Galleries: Museo Sorolla, Madrid, Spain

In the heart of the Chamberí neighbourhood, this small museum is the former home and studio of Joaquín Sorolla, the Spanish master of light

In the same way that Paris’s Musée National Gustave Moreau offers an alternative to the crowded galleries and overwhelming collections of the Musée D’Orsay or the Louvre, Museo Sorolla in Madrid provides an entirely different experience to that of the Prado or the Museo Reina Sofía. Once Joaquín Sorolla’s home, and now the gallery that holds the largest collection of his works, this impressive building can be found in the Chamberí neighbourhood, close to busy Paseo de la Castellana. 

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (27 February 1863-10 August 1923) was a Valencian painter most famous for his large-scale political paintings such as Sad Inheritance!,as well as his Spanish landscapes and portraits, often characterised by a close rendering of vibrant sunlight, which are the most consistent in this collection. Many of the figures that populate Sorolla’s late works are painted to a backdrop of the gardens that surround the museum, which Sorolla himself had a hand in designing. The gardens are a mix of different styles, drawing influence from the Alcázar in Seville and Generalife gardens in Granada.

Alongside the many paintings by Sorolla are collections of ceramics, jewellery, clothes and sculptures that the artist sourced throughout his lifetime. Many of these can be seen in the impressive Andalucían patio, which contains some of the house’s most arresting pieces, ranging from fine 15th-century ceramics from Manises, the centre of Spanish pottery, to wares made by Sorolla’s friends and family. 

Central to the museum is the artist’s spectacular studio, where natural light accompanies Sorolla’s career-long obsession with capturing the character of the Spanish sun. It is a space in which you can spend hours inspecting some of his best known works, or simply enjoy the room’s lively and luminous atmosphere.

Entry to the Sorolla museum is only €3. It is worth a visit for the calm of the beautiful gardens alone. Inside, there is a particular pleasure to be found in enjoying the art in a similarly gentle and unhurried way as the artist did himself. The museum is popular, and it is not uncommon to see a queue stretching along the street outside the building. For non-Spanish speakers who want to learn more about the artist, an audio guide is encouraged, as many of the explanatory labels are written only in the local language. Museo Sorolla is easily overlooked among the more heavyweight galleries that Madrid is famous for, but the opportunity to see the work of this important Spanish artist in his domestic setting is one that should not be missed.

Museo Sorolla is open every day apart from Mondays; Paseo del General Martínez Campos, 37, 28010 Madrid, Spain; https://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/sorolla-museum

By Scarlet Bailey Tait. Scarlet is based in London and specialises in writing about art

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