By Alejandra Enciso Guzmán
“St. Francis in Prayer in a Grotto” by Francisco de Zurbarán and “By the Seashore, Valencia” by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida are the ‘newbies’ welcomed to the San Diego Museum of Art. The inclusion of these two influential artists’ works continues to build on the strength of the museum’s renowned permanent collection of Spanish art.
Earlier this month there was the unveiling of “By the Seashore, Valencia.” Several personalities for the arts community were present for the important event which falls perfectly into the celebration of the Balboa Park Centennial as well as the museum’s 100th birthday.
“The Sorolla is the latest gift that we have gotten for this institution. It was a wonderful donation by the Legler Benbough Foundation and Pete Elseworth,” said Roxana Velásquez, executive director of the museum. “He asked us what painting would be suitable and visible to acquire for this institution. Sorolla made all the senses.”
Among the guests at the unveiling was Blanca Pons-Sorolla, the great granddaughter of the artist and President of the Permanent Commission of the Sorolla Museum Foundation.
“I am here today because the SDMA’s Executive Director asked me to be present for this unveiling. I also think I should be here,” she said. “San Diego is a city that I like very much, as well as the museum.”
Pons-Sorolla, who is based in Madrid, Spain, added: “I am coming and going quickly, but how could I not be here to see the painting that probably my grandma saw being created in the summer of 1908?”
Paloma is considered an expert in her great grandfather’s work and has dedicated her professional life to promote it. “By the Seashore, Valencia” is among several well-known bather and beach scenes completed by Sorolla during the summer of 1908. Portraying a beautiful, auburn-haired girl and a toddler on the Valencian seashore, this painting was featured in Sorolla’s 1909 touring exhibition, which was organized by the Hispanic Society of America and helped propel the artist to international fame.
Included in the same series as “After the Bath” and “Running Along the Beach” (both featured in Sorolla and America) this painting is characteristic of the artist’s signature luminous style.
“Joaquin Sorolla is one of the best known artists in the world. He was acclaimed and got all the accolades from living artists,” said Velásquez. “Another curious fact: the first piece of the San Diego Museum of Art was a Sorolla called ‘María at La Granja.’ It was a gift from Mr. Archer Milton Huntington in 1925. Today, we are uniting two paintings that where done in the same time, Maria and this precious beach scene that has given so much fame to Sorolla”
Both paintings are on display to the general public. Museum Hours include: Monday through Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday: noon to 5 p.m. They are closed on Wednesdays.