VI. The field of portraiture
Following his overwhelming international success, Sorolla enjoyed an unprecedented degree of creative freedom that is reflected in all aspects of his work. In the field of portraiture, he produced wholly original prototypes, using the closest members of his family as his main models. Though key portraits such as Señora de Sorolla in Black present the artist’s elegant wife indoors, in a room of their home in Madrid, in most of his best likenesses he used a garden as the natural backdrop for his sitters. The canvas that sums up better than any other the passionate, unrestrained sense of painting in Sorolla is María Dressed as a Valencian Peasant Girl, in which he recreates the rich play of light on the young
woman’s regional costume with dazzling refl ections and bold, changing colours.
At around the same time, Sorolla painted Summer, one of the most powerful beach scenes he had produced until then. In this exceptional
painting, the infl uence of Greek statuary fuses with that of photography
as the painter attempts to capture a snapshot of the fi gures moving on the
seashore, paralyzing them in the midst of their actions.