Self Portrait (1909) Joaquin Sorolla Buy Art Prints Now
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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 artist Sorolla with an intense glare from a 1909 self portrait. This expression is believed to have been inspired by Diego Velazquez's own appearance within the extraordinary Las Meninas of many centuries earlier, with Sorolla being a huge follower of that artist.

One can find many similarities with Sorolla's 1904 self portrait, though in the example in front of us here the intensity is even greater, with the figure taking up a larger proportion of the canvas. Joaquin wears a light grey hat which really dominates the eye because of how it contrasts with an otherwise fairly dark palette. Light comes in from our right hand side and illuminates the artist's own face. It also brings a prominence to his bridged nose as well as bringing colour to his beard which has started to grey whilst reflecting the artist's maturing age. He sits alongside an easel, with spots of white and red oils ready to be applied. There are also a couple of brushes that he perhaps holds out of view. There is then a small space leading up to the back of the room. In the foreground there appears to be a section of a canvas, with notes written on it. The brushwork here feels very loose and relaxed, with individual strokes of paint still visible, even from small images of the original painting.

The artwork found here is one of eight self-portraits in the collection of the museum dedicated to his career - Madrid's Museo Sorolla. It was just before this painting was completed that the artist had established his financial future and was now able to work with much greater freedom as a result. He had successfully exhibited a number of other paintings and sold significant numbers of them, leading to a rise in his profile and some funds banked for the future. This would have been a huge relief both for himself, but also his wife, Clotilde García del Castillo, and he devotes this painting directly to her. Joaquin was a proud family man who produced paintings of his beautiful wife on many occasions and would have been delighted to have finally achieved true success as an artist, having received the support of his family for many years previous. It was specifically his success at the Hispanic Society of America in New York that attracted a number of new wealthy patrons.

This was an expressive piece, where he works in about as contemporary a style as he would reach at any point in his career. It was a gift not only to his wife, but to the family as a whole and that would be the case for the vast majority of his self portraits as well as the portraits of his wife and children. That probably explains how so many of them now appear within the Sorolla Museum, where as many of his other pieces were sold privately and since then have exchanged hands at auction. His wife would naturally play an important role within his career, helping to lay the groundwork for him to concentrate entirely on his creative work, and her father would also help to influence his son-in-law too. Eventually, their help would pay off and this technically proficient gentleman would receive the recognition for his work that he undeniably deserved.