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Clotilde de Sorolla

Pintar y amarte, eso es todo, ¿Te parece poco? Painting, and loving you, isn’t that enough? (Sorolla , from Seville to Clotilde in Madrid. 23rd-24th February 1908, CFS531).

Clotilde García del Castillo (Valencia,1865-Madrid, 1929) is known for being Sorolla’s wife. But Clotilde was many other things: daughter, mother, model, economist as well as patron among others. She was the one who, following Sorolla’s intentions and wishes, decided to bequeath her family house to the Spanish State in order to later transform it into a Museum. In fact, she was the one who donated the different spaces and objects which are nowadays visible at the Sorolla Museum.

With this itinerary, we wish to bring our digital visitors closer to the figure of Clotilde, a woman who lived during the XIXth and XXth centuries and who was much more than the painter’s wife.

retrato de Clotilde
Retrato de Clotilde. Detalle
Retrato de Clotilde. Detalle
Retrato de Clotilde. Detalle

The correspondence between Clotilde and Joaquín took place every time he travelled, so it is quite extensive. In fact, thanks to this material we can now figure out where Sorolla was at certain times, and we can also obtain other pieces of information regarding the execution of certain artworks or other art pieces which Sorolla bought or exchanged with his companions.

The first letter we have evidence of dates from 1891. At that time, Sorolla needs to abandon his family in Valencia, as well his first newborn daughter in order to pursue his artistic career in Madrid.

Letter form Joaquín Sorolla to his wife in 1913 Letter from Joaquín (Paris) to Clotilde (Cuesta de las perdices, Madrid) on 3rd October 1913 (CFS1062)

These letters witness the affection that the couple shared. For example, in one of these letters Clotilde refers to him:

My dear Joaquín, I did not write to you yesterday but I do it today in order not to lose the habit (and because when I write, I feel closer to you)…”

(From Clotilde to Joaquín, on the 22nd November 1909, CFS722)

To which Joaquín replies:

“We should not lose the habit of writing!! Even if it is a little bit, I beg you not to stop doing it”

(From Sorolla in Granada, to Clotilde in Madrid, on the 24th November 1909. CFS741).

All the letters begin with “my dear Clota” or in a similar affectionate manner as we can see in the letter with the inventory number CFS1062. In this letter in particular, we read how Sorolla usually asks for his daughters and his wife’s measures in order to buy them the latest French fashion of the time by the best dressmakers in Paris.

Additionally, we can see Clotilde’s personal evolution while being Sorolla’s artistic model in different types of support. In this connection, we see her figure depicted in the small artworks that Sorolla executed once the newly married couple moved to Assisi.

A clear example of these artworks are the so-called “tablillas” (in English, small panels), and specifically Tras la ventana (ca. 1888-1890, MS 00256, of which he makes several versions as Clotilde en la ventana, dating from 1888, from a private collection) as well as drawings like Clotilde en el lecho (ca. 1888, MS 15092) which is part of the past temporary exhibition Sorolla. A Tireless Draughtsman.

“Clotilde In The Window” (private collection 1888)
“Clotilde In Bed” (MS 15092)

We also see her facet as mother in El primer hijo (1890, private collection) or in Madre (1900, MS 00324). And of course, she will have the protagonist role in certain large-format paintings like Desnudo de mujer (1902, private collection), Clotilde con traje gris (1900, MS 00483) or Paseo a orillas del mar (1909, MS 00834).

"The First Son" 1890 (private collection)
Visitor admiring "Clotilde Dressed in a Grey Robe" at the Sorolla Museum.

Clotilde was not only Sorolla’s model, in fact she was a model to other artists. A clear example of this is the sculptural bust executed by José Capuz (1912, MS 20058) or the miniature by Martha S.Baker (1911, MS 01289) a gouache on bone which is simply marvelous. In this artwork, Clotilde wears the Delphos shirt, designed by the famous dressmaker Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo. This shirt belonged to Clotilde and is nowadays preserved at the Sorolla Museum (ca. 1909-1910, MS 60518).

Pulse para ampliar "Clotilde de Sorolla", Martha S. Baker, 1911 (MS 01289)
Pulse para ampliar Delphos Shirt, Mariano Fortuny, ca. 1909-10 (MS 60518)
Pulse para ampliar A detail of the Delphos shirt, Mariano Fortuny, ca. 1909-10 (MS 60518)

Furthermore, we cannot forget the pictures that Antonio García, Clotilde’s father, would take of her from a very young age (MS80438), posing alone or as a part of the family scenes (MS80242).

"Clotilde García del Castillo", Antonio García, 1886 (MS 80438)
"Familia Sorolla", Antonio García, 1901 (MS 80242)

But let us return to Sorolla. As we have said, a quick glance at the artist’s work shows us that Clotilde became Sorolla’s muse. However, Clotilde was further related to Sorolla’s art in many ways. Indeed, the study of Sorolla’s documentation and archives (including correspondence, bills and lists) demonstrate us that apart from posing for the artist (thus enabling him to experiment with light and anatomy), Clotilde was an intelligent and diligent woman. She watched over the family business and attended financial matters as well as artistic ones whenever the artist was absent. In fact, she would sometimes prioritize such tasks:

“My dear Joaquín: I spent a part of my morning making out and organizing some invoices. Your letters will soon have their turn.”

(Clotilde to Sorolla, from Madrid, 19th November 1907).

She is the one who makes the artist’s lists of paintings that will be shown at his exhibitions, and the one who suggests him to be careful with expenses. She is also the one who, from time to time, intercepts messages from others:

“Tono told me that Franzen would come and visit the rooms, the dining room and so on. He wanted to photograph certain things from this summer. However, I have told him that I needed your permission first, and this is why I am asking you”

(Clotilde [Madrid] to Sorolla [Granada], on the 26th November 1909, CFS727)

It is certainly Clotilde the one who follows very closely her husband’s progress as an artist. This is visible in this photograph by Franzen. As we can see, Clotilde is showing special interest in this print which reproduces Las Meninas by Velázquez.

Picture of Joaquin Sorolla painting and looking with his wife a reproduction of "The Meninas"." "Joaquín Sorolla painting", Christian Franzen and Nissen, ca. 1906 (MS 80030).

The truth is that Clotilde and Sorolla’s art shared a sort of love-hate relationship. In fact, Clotilde considered Sorolla’s art as a “rival” due to the fact that this would usually take away a lot of the artist’s free time:

“I am glad to hear you have recovered from your discomfort. I hope that my rival does not force you to do any reckless action against your health. He is really a terrible rival, because you wouldn’t expose yourself for me as much as you did for your art. Yet, I know I cannot and should not complain and instead wish you to never lose that source of happiness which, in turn, means so much to you”

(Clotilde to Sorolla, Madrid on the 27th November 1918)

To which Sorolla responds that he cannot live without her:

“This dear of mine is very jealous, please excuse her…as always, I can see you taking charge of the pain that abandoning art in the middle of the countryside would produce me, even between palm trees”

(Sorolla [Alicante] to Clotilde [Madrid], 19th December CFS1929)

However, Clotilde is above all, patient:

“I understand that man like you is above all, a painter, not my husband or a father. And as a painter, he must prefer to paint above all else”

(Clotilde to Sorolla, Madrid, 13th December 1907)

In fact, Clotilde was so important to Sorolla that the painter dedicated her several paintings throughout his artistic career. In fact, he would always write to her very affectionate words such as: “To my Clotilde, from his Joaquín”. This can nowadays be found in the artist’s self-portrait in 1909, a painting in which Sorolla appears wearing an American hat after his successful tour in the United States. Indeed, at that point, Sorolla had exhibited his artworks at the Hispanic Society of New York and at the Copley Society in Boston.

Self-portrait of the painter with grey hat and palette Pulse para ampliar “Self-portrait”, 1909 (MS 00840)

She returned him back all this love, becoming a defender of his figure as well as the person in charge of donating his heritage.

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Imágen catálogo Clotilde de Sorolla

We have made available to all curious, avid readers as well as paint lovers the exhibition’s catalogue of Clotilde de Sorolla. Here you will be able to explore all the documentation that is related to her figure, her role in the creation of the Museum, her correspondence with Sorolla, as well as photographs together with a great number of artworks in which she poses as a model.

Check Catalogue PDF


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