Madrid is famous for the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the contemporary art museum Reina Sofia (which I personally don’t like). When tourists travel to the city, chances are they will go visit one (or all) of these three museums. I have been to all three of these museums so lately I’ve been trying to find other museums that I might enjoy. I’m not a huge fan of art museums in general because I can only look at paintings for so many hours.

Recently, my mother acquired and framed a copy of a Joaquin Sorolla painting in her Boston apartment. I vaguely remembered reading somewhere there was a Sorolla museum somewhere in Madrid. I didn’t know all that much about the artist but visiting the museum meant getting out of the house which I had been cooped up inside for 2 days straight thanks to a stomach bug. It turned out the museum isn’t that far a ride on the metro from where I live so yesterday I decided to go visit with my friend Sarah.

I suppose when people think of Spain’s famous artists, the first one that comes to mind is Picasso (whom I hate with a fiery passion). However, more people should know about Joaquin Sorolla, mostly because I think his painting style is far superior and more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

the man himself in a self portrait

Joaquin Sorolla was born in Valencia in 1863. His parents died from cholera when he was only 2 years old so he was raised by an aunt and uncle. At 18 he came to Madrid to study the master paintings at the Prado and ended up spending four years in Rome on a grant. In 1890, he and his family moved to Madrid. His works were exhibited in several European countries and he traveled twice to the US (one trip included an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago). The Hispanic Society of America hired him to paint a series of paintings depicting Spanish life and guess where this museum is?

Only New York City of all places. So as soon as I’m back home, I’m paying this place a visit.

After Sorolla died in 1923, his widow Clotilde bequeathed her husband’s estate to the Spanish government and asked that the house be turned into a museum featuring her late husband’s work.

The best part about visiting this museum is that it is free on Saturdays after 2 PM and on Sundays. I had no idea about that when I first entered so that was cool.

It seems Sorolla was a tad obsessed with Granada and the Alhambra because part of the gardens (which you walk past before getting to the main entrance of the museum) were designed to reflect the Alhambra’s style. The gardens were divided into 3 parts and I can’t remember what the other two parts were supposed to imitate. But basically, the gardens of the house are meant to resemble the Andalusian style of gardens. I lived in Andalusia for 3 months in Malaga and I can say with certainty many of the features in the gardens were things I saw regularly in Andalusia.

typical Andalusian style bench

Andalusian style tiles–my host mother had something similar on the floor of her backyard patio in Malaga

mini Alhambra

So the gardens were beautiful. But the museum is as well! The museum used to be Sorolla’s house and a lot of the furniture and other objects are original and used to belong to Sorolla. However, the walls in the house are also covered by his paintings. Sorolla was especially famous for his beach portraits–the people he painted along the beach (such as the one hanging in my mom’s apartment). There is an entire room devoted to the beach paintings. I especially liked the dining room which feature murals Sorolla directly painted on the walls.

desk in Sorolla’s studio with paintbrushes and paint

part of the living room

one of Sorolla’s most famous beach paintings

Upstairs there is a temporary exhibition focusing on paintings Sorolla painted during his brief visits to Granada. Many of the paintings feature the Alhambra and the landscape around Granada and these were just so beautiful. I took some pictures inside the museum (we were allowed to without flash) but I was unsure whether I was allowed in this part of the exhibit so I refrained.

These are from Google Images:

El Patio de Comares in the Alhambra by Sorolla

Granada landscape

So if you’ve already been to Madrid and you’ve been to see the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen, think about taking the time to visit the Museo Sorolla!