New Book on Joaquin Sorolla: Get It While You Can

Two new art books arrived on my doorstep yesterday. I’ll save the smaller book for a later post. This week I want to talk about the larger book: Sorolla: The Masterworks, by Blanca Pons-Sorolla. (She is the artist’s great-granddaughter and the author of several books by him.)


Sorolla's Return From Fishing, 1894, via
Return from Fishing, by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, 1894. I love these paintings of the boats on the shore: the sun, the wind in the sails, the water flowing at one’s feet. Sorolla said his subject was the sun, and he definitely gets it here.


While many people think of the Big Three of 19th Century painters as Monet, Renoir, and Manet, I know many contemporary artists who look rather to Sargent, Sorolla, and Swedish painter Anders Zorn. If you’ve ever tried to find a book on Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida and been frustrated because they were out of print and selling for over $100 used—order this one right now. I’ve no idea how large the print run of this book is, but if it’s like the other Sorolla books, it will only be printed once, and will be unavailable by Christmas (I’m writing this in early October 2012).

This really is a luscious book. It has large color reproductions of over 100 paintings in a high-quality printing, supplemented by black-and-white photos of Sorolla at work (including on some of the pieces in the book). Typical of Rizzoli, the printing is very good: even in these reproductions you can sometimes feel the sun and the surf that Sorolla captured so amazingly in his paintings of children at the beach, fisherman bringing in the boats, or a horse after a bath in the ocean. The paintings are shown in chronological order, so you can trace the changes in Sorolla’s style from fairly tight to much looser.

His portraits are sometimes compared to those of John Singer Sargent’s—the men evidently knew one another—and it’s nice to be able to compare the two (in high-quality reproductions, at least!). Books on Sargent are readily available, and new ones appear with regularity. Books on Sorolla, though, are ephemeral: here for a brief season and then gone. (Books on Zorn are non-existent, but Amazon does have an e-book for their Kindle Fire that’s not bad.)

If you’ve seen Pons-Sorolla’s big book, Joaquin Sorolla, published by the San Diego Museum of Art and now selling used for over $200, that book has more paintings in it (and many of them the same paintings as the new book), but the reproductions here are better: more subtle and probably truer to the paintings. The photographs of the painter at work, which show how he posed those children on the beach, and the giant canvases he worked on outdoors, are great. If you don’t already know Sorolla—this one is definitely worth seeking out.