An exhibition honors the friendship between Sorolla and Benlliure

Sculpture that is part of the exhibition 'Sorolla and Benlliure. A friendship, two artists'. / Luis Millan / EFE

The museum that carries the man of the Valencian painter exhibits eight sculptures, including a bust of the daughter of the master of realism

Antonio Paniagua

The Sorolla Museum investigates the fraternal friendship between the Valencian painter and Mariano Benlliure with an exhibition that brings together a series of pieces that the sculptor gave to the distinguished artist, including a carving by Velázquez that had never been exhibited before.

Joaquín Sorolla and Mariano Benlliure were not just two of the greatest artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The two masters of realism were, first of all, two good friends. Two Valencians living in Madrid who lived to create a unique art, which was successful both in Spain and abroad. Both won the gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900 and were acclaimed in their land with great honors.

Both were imbued with a traveling spirit that moved them to exhibit in the US, France, Chile, Argentina or Cuba, while sharing common projects, such as the creation of a Permanent Palace of Fine Arts and Industries in Valencia, an ambitious initiative that did not prosper, or the organization of exhibitions of the Valencian Artistic Youth. Their relationship began when they were both teenagers in Valencia and lasted their entire lives, until Sorolla's premature death at the age of 60.

The fruit of such a lasting friendship took shape in a series of artistic exchanges. Sorolla portrayed Mariano Benlliure and his family, gave him paintings affectionately dedicated: "to my friend", "to my brother". The sculptor, aware of how much the painter liked sculpture, presented him with a small collection of bronzes and a plaster cast, as well as a decorative ceramic vase, pieces that today, on the 75th anniversary of the sculptor's death, are meet for the first time in a room at the Sorolla Museum.

Organized by the Sorolla Museum and the Sorolla Museum Foundation, the exhibition 'A friendship, two artists: Sorolla and Benlliure', which opens tomorrow and will remain open until October 2, aspires to be a tribute not only to the sculptor Mariano Benlliure Gil, but also to the friendship that the two artists cultivated. A relationship that extended to his wives and families, and that led Mariano Benlliure to initiate Elena Sorolla García, the painter's youngest daughter, in the art of sculpture, a discipline in which she was a pioneer in her time.

enduring brotherhood

This friendship continues today between the descendants of both artists who keep these fraternal ties alive. Curated by Ana Muñoz Martín and Covadonga Pitarch Angulo, the exhibition brings together eight sculptures, among which the portraits of Sorolla stand out: a bronze profile plaque that the sculptor made to honor the successes achieved by the painter in 1909, when the individual exhibition which he took to New York broke all imaginable records for critics, sales and audiences; or the limestone bust that since 1932 has welcomed visitors in the Museum's garden and shows Sorolla doing what he liked best: painting in the sunlight.

The plaster of a 'Study for the monument to Velázquez' stands out in the exhibition, a work that is exhibited to the public for the first time and that has the interest of being one of the best preserved plaster casts of the author. Also outstanding are the portraits of the photographer Antonio García Peris, father-in-law of Joaquín Sorolla, a piece made in bronze that was a gift from the painter to his wife, and that of María Sorolla García, eldest daughter of the artist, which Benlliure gave to the descendant of the painter when she got married.

In addition to these sculptural pieces, the exhibition includes a decorative ceramic vase, three drawings —which are actually three caricatures, two by Sorolla and one by Benlliure— and a set of photographs and letters with which the Museum wants to contextualize the friendship of the two artists.

Arranged in the first room of the Sorolla Museum, a studio that Sorolla used, among other functions, to organize the posthumous exhibition of Aureliano Beruete, a close family friend and landscape painter, the exhibition takes up the tributes that Sorolla began in life, from again with one of the most important figures on the Spanish art scene and one of the fundamental people in the life of the Valencian painter. The exhibition is accompanied by a guide that includes texts by the curators and by Lucrecia Enseñat Benlliure and Blanca Pons-Sorolla, descendants of Mariano Benlliure and Joaquín Sorolla, respectively, and both good friends.

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