Exhibition: Swimmer - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

The guest work


2003-05-20 • 2003-08-20


19 Room


Joaquín Sorolla is one of the most important Spanish painters of the period between the 19th. and 20th. centuries, closely associated with the European Naturalist Movement. From the academic school of artists, he was inspired by the social and regional traditions and customs genre as can be seen in La Reliquia (The Relic), painted in 1893 and which belongs to the collection of the Bilbao Art Museum (Room 18) later to develop a luminous aesthetics brought to life in landscapes and portraits. As of 1904,

Sorolla begins to develop the theme of the beach as a personal and independent derivation of the scenes typical in the so-called costumbrismo marinero (social and regional traditions and customs at sea), which had appeared in his work ten years previously. The canvas which we present as the Invited Work was painted in the summer of 1905 during Sorolla’s last stay in Jávea, Alicante and it forms part of the group of numerous studies and preparatory sketches done by the artist during this period of maturity, of which beach scenes, where he paid special attention to chromatic and light values, are characteristic. In this case, the figure of a young girl swimming in the sea at dusk below a cliff is at the centre of the composition. The sun produces surprising reflections on the surface of the sea, whose movement is reproduced in the representation of the swimmer.

The great expressive force of the colour, which is applied in long, rapid brush-strokes and conveys a free and loose feeling, can be fully appreciated in the bright yellow reflections, which, on the dark blue waters, blend in with the greenish colour of the clothing of the girl. The elegant undulation of the painting and the audacious contrast of lights creates a sensation which takes us back to the beginnings of modernism and the suggestive shade which is characteristic of symbolist painters.

The Guest Work is a programme devised by the Museum with the aim of acquainting the general public with outstanding works from other museums and collections which, in turn, enriches our collection. The Programme commenced in 2001 with the sculpture, Bilbao (1982) by Richard Serra, belonging to a private collection, and continued with Figure (1928) by Pablo Picasso, from the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (the Queen Sophia National Art Museum) in Madrid and La iglesia de Notre Dame de Burdeos (Our Lady’s Church in Bordeaux) by Oskar Kokoschka, from the Bordeaux Art Museum. On this occasion, we present an exceptional work by the painter, Joaquín Sorolla from the Sorolla Museum in Madrid.


Joaquín Sorolla (Valencia, 1863 - Cercedilla, Madrid, 1923)
Swimmer. Jávea, 1905
Oil painting on canvas, 107,5 x 180 cm
Sorolla Museum, Madrid