Valencian artist Joaquín Sorolla’s position as one of the dominant 19th century masters in the current art market was confirmed recently when one of his works – “Pescadores Valencianos” – sold for a new record of 4.64 million euros (£3.737.250) at an exclusive auction in London.
“La Hora del Baño” had already reached a staggering 5.3 million euros (£3.701.600) in 2003, but the sum paid by a European foundation was the largest ever recorded for a Sorolla painting at a sterling auction. Painted in the shallow wash of a Valencia beach in 1895, the work evokes a bygone era as it depicts fishermen washing their lobster and crab traps in rich oily strokes.
Already confirmed not just as Valencia’s greatest and indeed one of Spain’s many fine artists, Joaquín Sorolla has been enjoying increasing acclaim on the international stage in recent years – a renaissance that reflects his prominence as an artist in the early 20th century, which he captured with such powerfully romantic detail.
It is not yet known where the painting will end up and if it will be on public display, but since its original unveiling at the Internationale Kunstausstellung in Berlin in 1896, “Pescadores Valencianos” remained in the German capital until 1930, when it was passed into private collections, only to resurface for auction late this year.
Though this work was the star of the auction in London, other paintings by Sorolla found an almost equally enthusiastic response that brought the total value of sales on the day to just over ten million euros. Among them was a portrait of Julia Peraire, painted by the artist Ramón Casas in 1908, which itself was bought by a private collector for 352,000 euros.
Although it has never quite gone out of fashion, the accelerating speed of modern-day society and developments gives the period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries an increasing sense of romance and appeal – especially when seen through the eyes of the great Joaquín Sorolla.