Sorolla's paradise is installed at the Thyssen

Art. In Javea the artist found the light and peace that he needed to paint. A selection of these works painted 'in his prime' are on display in the Sala Noble of the gallery


Sorolla sent this telegram to his wife Clotilde as soon as he arrived at Marina Alta on 7 October, 1896, "Javea is sublime, it's immense, the best [place] I know for painting. I will spend a few days here. If you were here, two months."

He went there for a commission related to vine cultivation but left with the certainty of having found the light he had long sought for his canvases. That is why he would return to the same place three more times to spend long periods there, accompanied by his family.

His last visit was in 1905, a year before he became internationally known. The Carmen Thyssen Museum concentrates on that summer at the beginning of the century, on the shores of the Mediterranean, with an exhibition "small but intense" which demonstrates Sorolla "in his prime."

One's gaze is immediately drawn towards the back wall of the Sala Noble in the Thyssen museum. Here hangs the painting Nadadores, one of the most emblematic paintings of the artist and which has literally been removed from the wall of the museum in Madrid to bring it to Malaga. .

"It is exceptional, we thought about it a lot, " explains the director of the museum and curator of the exhibition, Enrique Varela, aware that it is one of the pieces that the public most want to see when they visit.

Sorolla en Jávea and the painting Rocas de Jávea y la Bote Blanco, connect the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection with the twenty-six other paintings on loan from the Museo Sorolla Madrid. '

All of them were created in that coastal town, most in the 'happy year' of 1905, and reflect the artist's impression of the natural environment and his taste for family scenes. In Javea, Sorolla found a "small refuge, a paradise far from the noise and his clients," says Varla. Here, he didn't have to paint for anybody, only himself. This allowed him to use modern approaches and experiment with transparencies, with how the body dilutes between the light and the crystalline water.

"One of the great things about Sorolla is that he knew how to transmit the colour and emotion of the landscape to the viewer," says Lourdes Moreno, the artistic director of the Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga. El Cabo de San Antonio, the Isla del Portichol, the sea and the rocks. It is an "effervescent painting which captures the intensity of the sunset and the emerald sea."

International success

This was a very special time for the Valencia painter. When he discovered Javea in 1896, he had just been awarded the gold medal at the Salon de París with La Vuelta a la Pesca. When he left Javea for the last time in 1905 at the age of 42, he was about to triumph at his first, individual exhibition in Paris. "Between taking off and becoming a great international Master he was in Jávea where he was free of ties," says the museum director.

The large format works are interspersed with smaller studies and colour notes in which the painter has captured his first impressions with quick, abstract strokes; or sketches of Clotilde and their children.

"They are kind of snapshots on which he worked later," suggests Moreno.

Some of these paintings are usually displayed at a distance from the viewer, high on the walls of the Museo Sorolla which occupies the house in which the artist lived in Paseo del General Martínez Campos. In Malaga however, they can be seen close up.

If in a visit to his paintings in Madrid "the whole is worth more than the unit, here the unit is worth more than the whole," Varela emphasised.

The opening of the exhibition, organised thanks to the sponsorship of Iuris Cátedra, Abogados y Economistas, was attended by the vice-president of the Fundación Palacio Villalón and the mayor of Malaga, Francisco de la Torre; the patron and representative of the Carmen Thyssen Collection, Guillermo Cervera, and direct descendants of the artist.

"They are beautiful, you never get tired of seeing them," said Sorolla's great grandson, Antonio Mollá, president of the permanent commission of the Fundación Sorolla. The collection will be at the Thyssen museum until 16 January 2022.