Reading is useful in many ways, overall if we consider its three enriching dimensions: recreational, educational and informative. Reading is fun, it develops our vocabulary, it stimulates our imagination, it increases our knowledge, it develops critical thinking, it gives us freedom and it enables communication while allowing us to relax.
The XIXth century brought about many changes that influenced reading, and all those changes were related to each other. On the one hand, a great part of the population started to have access to mandatory education in several European countries, thus increasing the number of readers. On the other hand, there were important technical transformations regarding the making of books. Such transformations allowed for cheaper prices, and consequently an increase in reading supplies.
At the Museum Sorolla there is a lot of space for reading. In the past, Sorolla surrounded himself with books in his daily life, not only in his studio but also in other private rooms.
In the Museum’s archive we nowadays preserve documents about the purchase of certain books or magazines that Sorolla bought. Many of these books are now in the Museum and make up the Museum’s library . Some of them are exhibited in the Museum’s rooms.
During the XIXth century, collective reading began to move towards individual, silent and intimate reading.
The XIXth century was the century of splendor of periodical press, which had a decisive role contributing towards the love for reading.
But books and the press are not the only aspects stimulating reading. Correspondence is also an important factor, and the Sorolla Museum counts with a wide collection of letters between Sorolla and his family and friends. In some of these letters, the family members even record their taste for reading as well as its importance.
In one of them, Elena tells her father: “Last Sunday was very fun. We spent the whole afternoon reading those beautiful books by Zorrilla…” (inventory number CFS730).
In another letter, Joaquín tells Clotilde: “Tell my… Joaquín to copy many books in order to improve his handwriting and spelling” (inventory number CFS431).
In another letter, Joaquín’s friend, Pedro Gil expresses his gratitude for the book by Galdós, and tells him that he will be reading it during his trip to Barcelona (inventory number CS2104). The book is dedicated by the writer, and Sorolla had asked him to do it specially for his friend Pedro Gil.
Sorolla was not only a reader; he also kept a very close relationship with several famous writers of his time. In this connection, we can cite Juan Ramón Jiménez (from which we nowadays conserve a copy of Poesías escojidas, dedicated to Sorolla), as well as his wife, Zenobia Camprubí (who translated El asceta de Rabindranath Tagore and who signed it personally for the painter). Both of them dedicated Sorolla a reproduction of the portraits that the artist had executed:
This year in particular we commemorate the centenary of the death of Benito Pérez Galdós. Given the documentation we nowadays preserve at the Museum about the artist’s and writer’s mutual friendship, we must not forget to mention him.
Indeed, in the Sorolla Museum’s library, we preserve two of his dedicated books: Nazarín y Ángel Guerra.
We also preserve the correspondence between both the writer and the painter, asking the artist to fix a date for the execution of the portrait, or asking him for a visit at Sorolla’s studio.
His relationship was also recorded in the press of the time. In the Archive of the Museum we nowadays find several press articles about the banquet- a tribute that took place in the Viveros due to his success in the National Exhibition in 1901 (he obtained the Honor Medal). Two hundred guests attended the event and the menu consisted mainly on a paella. The press informs that Galdós formed part of the presidential table and that he also gave a speech.
We have made available to all curious, avid readers as well as paint lovers a list of digitized books, belonging to the old funds of the Sorolla Museum. Some of them were acquired by Sorolla himself, and others later in time. These can be consulted online.