Pedro Masaveu - Pasión por Sorolla | Centro Niemeyer

This large(ish) show is made up of work’s from the entirety of Joaquín Sorolla’s career, amassed by the titular collector. There are 45 paintings in all on show, presented in strict chronological order in transparent frames, as though they are floating in the middle of the domed gallery. (There’s a whole separate post I could have written about the utter weirdness of this empty and echoing Jetsons-style, Oscar Niemeyer designed, cultural centre, stranded in an estury, next to a train track and a main road, in a sleepy Asturian coastal town.)

Sorolla’s known for his lyrical, and rather sentimental, beach scenes. His generous, loose, thick brush worries over the textures of sunlit water, sails and skin. Occasionally to quite gorgeous effect, as in Cosiendo la vela from 1904, in which fishermen sew sails on the beach towards sundown, the sand cast in reddish hues.

Installation view

The rest of the works hit on his other themes: naked children playing in the waves, sailboats, and a few (less successful) portraits of his rich benefactors. Sorolla was highly successful during his career, married well, and travelled widely. His home in Madrid, now a museum, was beautiful, with spectacular Andalusian-style gardens. His paintings speak of a similar, sunny ease.

Well, almost always. There’s a fascinating mini-show in a side gallery of Sorolla’s Notas de Color, small works on cardboard. Each was painted in Asturias. As their collective name suggests, the use of colour’s the thing here: the brownish green hills immediately evocative of the ones my ALSA coach passed through on my way to the museum. Such rich suggestions from so few brushstrokes!

Other highlights

Based in Oviedo for this trip, I also checked out the permanent collection of the city’s fine arts museum, featuring very hunger-inducing Luís Melendez still lives, and a set of 12 Apostle portraits from El Greco’s studio: their long white talons are all the master’s work, though. In Gijón, I went to the Museo Barjola, collecting the work of Juan Barjola, whose mid-20th century paintings seem to combine bits from 30s Picasso and 40s Bacon.

Pedro Masaveu: Pasión por Sorolla is at Centro Niemeyer (Avilés). 28 June 2018 - 6 January 2019