LECTURE - Joaquín Sorolla: THE NAKED TRUTH of Academicism, Social Realism & Costumbrismo


"I thoroughly enjoyed the lecture. The detail and amount of information you covered was enormous. 
As you know I am a Sorolla fan and have painted many of his works, but do enjoy the early paintings. They have a different style and show what a talented painter he was. 
I look forward to your next lecture."
- Best wishes, James, Javea

"Fascinating lecture by Karla. I almost felt like an insider to the paintings presented, most of which I had not seen before.  I became fascinated with the "Costumbrista" era of Sorolla's Spanish paintings.  I absolutely loved them.  I appreciate the way Karla presents the information. Her knowledge gives you a wonderful perspective and you are grasping for more.  I feel fortunate I ran across Karla on the internet, because living in Valencia, I didn't have the opportunity to "attend" her classroom sessions until the Pandemic, when she started on Zoom.  In situations like this I always go back to my favorite Haiku:
Barn's burnt down --
now, I can see the moon.
- Mizuta Masahide
Muchas gracias Karla, can't wait for the next one."
-Mimi Carrera, Valencia city

"Karla's lecture are so full of the historical context of Spain. I enjoyed the  Costumbrista style masterpieces of Sorolla. His academic work was beautiful too and when you keep in mind of his young age when he was painting these works, amazing! The historical philosophies of Spain and Europe at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century comes to life in the absolute master works of the great and unique Sorolla. He formed a unique style with inspirations from master painters from Velazquez to the modern era of Monet."
-Trudi van Dorp, Benitachell

"Another fascinating lecture from Karla on Sorolla's work. It was fascinating to learn about the need to produce popular regional paintings to make money while developing his professional reputation through social realism paintings. As Karla talked us through the paintings, I learned about the links between the sciences and arts in the period. As the world adjusted to the discoveries of Darwin, artists began to focus on naturalism. Sorolla walked a tightrope between this new world and the traditions shown in his costumbrismo works. Another fascinating talk leaving us with much to reflect on."
- Denise Bayes, Barcelona


In this lecture, we will explore Sorolla's early journey throughout his educational phase where he was committed to academicism. This style of true-to-life, narrative, realist painting was the "official" or "approved" style of European art since the 1600's. It was dominated by conventions combined with a fixed set of aesthetics. Above all, paintings needed to contain a suitably moral message.

After perfecting religious and historical narrative paintings, he decided to reflect on the harshness of life and the most vulnerable lower classes, encapsulated in an emerging genre that was named social realism

This was a bold choice for Sorolla, especially at the beginning of his career. While other artists were in the pursuit of classical beauty and legendary stories to enhance their vocations, Sorolla went towards expressing the ugly injustices that were on the rise due to the industrial revolution. These sad and often disturbing visions were based on his real life observations.

He won several awards with his social realism paintings. These prizes elevated his fame and profile in the art world, but at home he found himself creating genre paintings in the Valencian regional style of costumbrismo. He chose themes that were popular to where he lived and hence easy to sell to generate needed revenue to support his wife and three children. 


Social realism: pictorial interpretation focused on the most dramatic circumstances of the lesser classes related to Baroque’s artistic realism and historical arguments, that is, narrative content, considered necessary in the 19th and 20th centuries and prized in the salon system.

Costumbrismo  - pictorial interpretation of local everyday life, mannerisms, and customs, related both to Baroque’s artistic realism and to Romanticism’s charm.