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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Here we find Joaquin Sorolla's wife enjoying a rare moment of rest. It was highly unusual for the artist to produce domestic scenes such as this, but he did portray his family members on several occasions.

This charming, personal artwork was completed by Joaquin back in 1895, at which point he himself would have been in his early thirties. The child captured alongside his wife was Elena, who was born in the same year. She was their youngest child. Some have actually argued that the painting itself was not actually completed until five years later. It is significant that mother and child tilt their heads towards each other, as the artist displays that unique bond which is so important to the early months of a newborn baby's life. Mary Cassatt (The Child's Bath, Young Mother Sewing and Mother about to Wash her Sleepy Child) would famously focus on this relationship many times within her Impressionist paintings, but it was rare for Sorolla to work in this way. The choice of white pillow covers and duvet provides a feeling of purity within this painting which perhaps connects to the baby itself, as Elena sleeps. Her mother looks content and happy, but no doubt would have been exhausted at the time due to the perils of caring for young children. Joaquin chooses to break from his norm as an artist in order to capture this touching moment and likely would have intended to keep this piece within the family rather than selling it to collectors.

Even Elena's clothing is white, meaning it merges into the bedding around her. What is left is the appearance of her and her mother's face which provide the main contrast and therefore attract our attention almost immediately. There is also no detail on the walls of the bedroom, leaving behind an unusually calm and low-key artwork from an artist who famously produced incredible detail and vibrant colour in so many of his most famous paintings. Despite this diversion, the piece was well received, and many academics considered it to be technically of a very high standard. Its subtlety therefore indicated a balance of intricate lighting and so the artist could deliver a quality work without having to resort to intense colour schemes that were not always appropriate for the content being covered. That said, the public seem to have much preferred his outdoor scenes, including those along the Valencian beaches, where he allowed himself to be more bold in his style. Sorolla would continue to depict his family members within a number of other paintings such as My Children, My Family and My Wife and Daughters in the Garden.

Sorolla rose to become one of the most famous Spanish artists in history and produced a style which proved particularly popular with the artistic public, both in Spain and also the US. In recent years his work has received greater exposure elsewhere too, creating new following in other nations such as France and the UK, when previously he had not been as well known. Part of the reason for this is down to the location of his work today, most of which still resides within his native Spain, both at the museum set up in his name but also in a number of private collections due to purchases made during his own lifetime. The artist was also particularly prolific and left behind many hundreds of artworks by the end of his career, including also many study drawings that were used to prepare for some of the very large and complex canvases which required considerable levels of planning prior to each piece being started.

Mother in Detail Joaquin Sorolla