Sorolla’s great-granddaughter hunts for his missing American works
More than 30 have been traced but the whereabouts of 200 paintings are still unknown
By Julia Halperin. Web only
Published online: 19 December 2013
The great-granddaughter of the Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida traced more than 30 missing works by her ancestor in the process of organising the exhibition “Sorolla and America” at the Meadows Museum in Dallas (until 19 April). Last year alone, Blanca Pons-Sorolla discovered previously undocumented works in a public library in Illinois and the US Department of State in Washington, DC.
Sorolla created around 400 paintings during trips to the US in 1909 and 1911, and many entered private collections. Forty of these works have been presented publicly for the first time at the Meadows exhibition, which travels to the San Diego Museum of Art (30 May-26 August 2014) and then to Madrid’s Fundación Mapfre (23 September 2014-11 January 2015).
One of the most significant recent discoveries is a 1911 portrait of the little-known American painter Ralph Clarkson found in the collection of an Illinois library (above). Sorolla depicts Clarkson in front of Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez. “The portrait was painted in Chicago, so Sorolla must have reproduced the painting from memory,” says Mark Roglán, the director of the Meadows Museum. “Sorolla has said he was a child of Velázquez, but he was being so honest about it here. It was a revelation.”
Although Sorolla kept meticulous records during his time in the US and photographed each completed work, the whereabouts of 200 remain unknown. In an effort to locate them, the catalogue for “Sorolla and America” includes the original checklists from Sorolla’s 1909 and 1911 exhibitions. Pons-Sorolla hopes that the buzz from the show will encourage collectors of Spanish art from the early 20th century “to look into their holdings”.
Some already have. Over the past eight months, five works that Pons-Sorolla had been unable to locate were auctioned at Sotheby’s and Christie’s. She tracked down the new owner of one of the works, Palacio de Carlos V, 1908, just in time to include it in the exhibition. “We had documentation of the first owners of that work 100 years ago, but we didn’t know who owned it after that,” Pons-Sorolla says. “Now we do.”
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