Sorolla: Spanish Master of Light review, National Gallery – ecstatic celebrations of life by the sea

Detail from Young Fisherman, Valencia, 1904 Joaquín Sorolla
Detail from Young Fisherman, Valencia, 1904 by Joaquín Sorolla Credit: Private Collection

El Greco, Velázquez, Goya, Sorolla, Picasso... So goes a list of top Spanish painters from across the centuries. Perhaps one of those five names, though, will stand out – Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923) – and it’ll do so because, beyond Spain, he’s not really much known.  

A Sorolla retrospective at Madrid’s Prado Museum attracted almost half a million visitors in 2009, making it the most popular show at the institution this millennium. Contrast that to the UK, where just seven of his paintings are in public collections and the retrospective that opens at the National Gallery next week is his first exhibition on British soil since 1908.        

Born in the port city of Valencia, Sorolla lost both...

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