Madrid Sorolla Museum. A palace and a tourist attraction

Museo del Prado

I was still a teenager, sort of aimlessly wandering through life in Madrid without specific goals. It was a time of fun and games. An O.K. high school student, goalkeeper in the school’s handball team, devoted moviegoer, a friend to his friends and no clue regarding what the future held in store for me. One day my grandmother invited me to the Sorolla Museum. I humored her and went along.  At the time museums were not my cup of tea, but my grandmother was not someone to be rebuffed. What first was brought to my attention was the garden and the building itself. For a palace in the middle of Madrid, it blended with its surroundings as if to make you feel welcome. Once inside, I learnt that Sorolla had designed the house himself. A luminous atmosphere meant to encourage creativity and an elegant sense of luxury to delight the senses. Then, there were the pictures. Such colourful sensuality. And the self portrait. Sorolla staring at you as if asking: “what are you going to do with your life? Get on with it”. My grandmother told me that Sorolla didn’t have it easy. He became an orphan at two and was taken in by his aunt and uncle who had the good sense to detect his talent and encouraged him to take up an art education when he was nine years old. I quote from our website: “His first works as a painter did not fit with the prevailing artistic currents. Therefore, he experienced the hardship and deprivations that Goya suffered when he first arrived in Madrid. However, thanks to the social relations of his friend Aurelian Beruete, a refined artist and aristocrat, the fate of Sorolla changed and soon the provincial young man became a much sought after portraitist of the Madrid aristocracy. Thus, his portraits of the most important public characters of that historical period. Sorolla’s growth as an artist was made possible by his travels through Italy and France. He crowned his career with succesful exhibits in New York and Chicago.” A success story with a happy ending and it revolved around art. It struck a chord. Coming out of the Museum I felt that somehow my life would be linked to artistic achievements. And so it has been. Learning about artists’ styles, motivations, historical context, hardships and joys has been a pleasure to be shared with others, in the same way that my grandmother shared with me the intoxicating sobriety of Sorolla.

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