Painting of the Week: Joaquín Sorolla, Capturing the Moment


The Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla spent most of his summers with his family in French Biarritz, 35 kilometres from the border with Spain. Sorolla was a master of capturing the moment – here, in the work entitled Capturing the Moment, he shows his daughter Maria preparing to take a snapshot. The camera is probably the Kodak “Folding Pocket Nº 0”, the smallest portable model there was at the time, which went on sale as a luxury item in 1902.

Sorolla Capturing the moment
No. 0 Folding Pocket Kodak, 1902, source:

The title of the painting, Capturing the Moment, reflects both the photographic quality and the rapid, almost sketch-like technique Sorolla uses in this painting. It’s quite visible how the artist was inspired by the French Impressionists. He had come into contact with them in Paris, where his first solo exhibition had just been very well received by the critics.

The camera was often used by Sorolla and his family members.

Sorolla Capturing the moment
Joaquín Sorolla photographed while painting on the beach. Source:

Sorolla grew a reputation for beach scenes, which he painted endlessly, and had an uncanny ability for capturing the effects of blazing Mediterranean sunlight. Many of these pictures, often large canvases, were executed ‘en plein air’, as evidenced by the grains of sand embedded in their densely painted surfaces.

Sorolla Capturing the moment
Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, Capturing the Moment, 1906, Museo Sorolla, Madrid, detail.

But, as it is summer time, we should say something also about the beach and the sea in Biarritz. It was once a whaling city inhabited by a few hundred people. It was described in 1843 by Victor Hugo as a “charming and beautiful place”, however at the same time he shared his grave fear “that it would become fashionable”… And it became fashionable. It started from the construction of the palace of Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III, in 1854.

The town has become a popular place to be not only among the royalty. It was one of the favorite places of Charlie Chaplin, Pablo Picasso, Winston Churchill – and Joaquin Sorolla.

Sorolla Capturing the moment
The beach in Biarritz, circa 1900. Source: Wikimedia.

Sorolla received the greatest recognition. In 1909, he made a successful debut in the United States in a solo exhibition at the Hispanic Society in New York City. The resulting critical acclaim won him a commission to paint President William Howard Taft in 1909. Upon his return to Spain, he purchased a beach house in Valencia, on the Mediterranean shore. For the rest of his career, he drew his inspiration from the dazzling light on the water by his home, and his beach scenes are marked by sharp contrasts of light and shade, brilliant colors, and vigorous brushstrokes.

The painting which we present today is in the collection of Museo Sorolla, one of the museums you really need to see when you’re in Madrid.

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Painting of the Week: Joaquín Sorolla, Capturing the Moment was first posted on June 30, 2019 at 4:44 am.
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