Spanish Light: Sorolla in American Collections, a new exhibition at the Meadows Museum featuring 27 paintings from private collections, joins the worldwide celebration of the Spanish artist. Titled the “Year of Sorolla/Ario Sorolla” by Spain’s Ministry of Culture, the exhibition celebrates the centennial anniversary of the artist’s death.
The exhibition, curated by Blanca Pons-Sorolla—a renowned Sorolla scholar and the artist’s great granddaughter—will be on display from Sept.17 through Jan. 7, 2024 at the Meadows Museum, SMU. It features 27 paintings from American private collections, some of them displayed publicly for the first time in decades. Seven have never been publicly exhibited and another nine have not been publicly exhibited for over 100 years. While approximately 30 exhibitions are taking place around the world, the Meadows’s is one of only two in the U.S.
Spanish Light: Sorolla Exhibition at the Meadows
“This exhibition offers a unique look at Sorolla’s work from private American collections. Thanks to a group of exquisite paintings rarely seen in public, audiences are invited to appreciate the artist’s captivating talent as a painter of light,” said Amanda W. Dotseth, the Linda P. and William A. Custard Director of the Meadows Museum. “Spanish Light: Sorolla in American Collections, reveals Sorolla’s continued popularity in this country, which can be traced back to the American collectors who supported him during his lifetime. By participating in the Sorolla Centennial, the Meadows joins other institutions in Spain and elsewhere to introduce or reengage audiences with the work of this important artist.”
Joáquin Sorolla y Bastida’s (1863-1923) artistic talent was apparent from a young age. As a teenager he exhibited paintings at the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in Madrid. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Valencia and, in 1884, his first large painting was acquired by the Spanish government. By the next decade, Sorolla’s work was being regularly shown in salons and international exhibitions across Europe and in America, including at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Capitalizing on this interest, the Hispanic Society of America invited Sorolla to present an exhibition of his work there in 1909. From that show, the artist sold nearly 200 works to American collectors. He remained in the U.S. for several months, painting a number of portraits on commission, including one of President William Howard Taft.
U. S. Collectors
Spanish Light: Sorolla in American Collections captures this long-standing affection for Sorolla in the US, by bringing to public view some two dozen paintings drawn from private collections. The exhibition highlights Sorolla’s most popular and characteristic subjects – such as the white sails of Valencian fishing boats, children frolicking on the shoreline, lively garden scenes, and pensive figural studies.
The Meadows exhibition covers a multi-decade arc of Sorolla’s career, and includes an early painting, Female Nude from Behind (Desnudo femenino de espaldas) (c. 1886). A decade or more later, Sorolla’s Pines of Galicia (Pinos de Galicia) (1900) captures the light in a stand of pine trees. His port scene, Castle of Málaga (1910), portrays water and hillsides that catch and reflect the sunlight. The artist’s latest work, completed about five years before his death, is Detail of the Garden of the Sorolla House (Detalle del jardín de la Casa Sorolla) (c. 1918).
The exhibition takes advantage of the Meadows Museums excellent holdings of paintings by Sorolla, which represent the only works on display from public collections. “View of Las Pedrizas from El Pardo (1907), which was owned by Algur H. Meadows prior to his foundation of the museum, helps to contextualize the loans from American private collections upon which the exhibition is focused.
Spanish Light: Sorella in American Collections
The Spanish Light exhibition at the Meadows Museum is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. It offers an opportunity to gather and present images of these privately held works even after the close of the exhibition. The catalogue features an introduction by curator Pons-Sorolla, who was recently invited to be the inaugural affiliated scholar of the Custard Institute for Spanish Art and Culture at the Meadows Museum. This honor is in recognition of her research on Sorolla as well as her support and collaboration with the Meadows Museum.
Art historian Cristina Domenech contributed an essay that offers perspectives on the artist’s popularity among American private collectors past and present, and explores the collecting history of the featured works. The research is based in part on that conducted for museum’s groundbreaking 2013–14 exhibition Sorolla and America, which was also curated by Pons-Sorolla. Cristina Domenech also contributed an essay for that exhibition. The Meadows Museum will also feature an installation of works on paper by Sorolla from its permanent collection to coincide with Spanish Light.
Curator Blanca Pons-Sorolla
“An important part of my work as curator of this exhibition is to offer the public the opportunity to see paintings that are in American private collections,” Pons-Sorolla said. “These are works I am fortunate to know thanks to my research for the Sorolla catalogue raisonné. Sorolla’s success was largely due to his masterful representation of light and the joy his paintings convey; this joy is precisely that which the artist felt as he painted. His enthusiasm and passion for his craft and his love for his country is what the American public especially appreciated, and what private collectors continue to appreciate when they purchase his paintings.”
“That is why we pay this tribute to Sorolla in this special year, with an exhibition celebrating the extraordinary reception Sorolla has received by the American people. It is a pleasure to have this new opportunity to collaborate with the Meadows Museum and its professional staff. I am especially honored to have joined the Custard Institute as an affiliated scholar; I will contribute to its mission to the best of my abilities.”
The Meadows Museum is located on the SMU campus at 5900 Bishop Blvd, Dallas, TX 75205. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday with extended hours until 9 p.m. on Thursday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Parking is free for museum visitors. It is the leading U.S. institution focused on the study and presentation of the art of Spain. In 1962, Dallas businessman and philanthropist Algur H. Meadows donated his private collection of Spanish paintings, as well as funds to start a museum, to Southern Methodist University. The museum opened to the public in 1965, marking the first step in fulfilling Meadows’s vision to create “a small Prado for Texas.”
Today, the Meadows is home to one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of 0Spanish art outside of Spain. The collection spans from the 10th to the 21st centuries and includes medieval objects, Renaissance and Baroque sculptures, and major paintings by Golden Age and modern masters. For more information, please visit meadowsmuseumdallas.org.