On Friday, I had the privilege of visiting the exhibition of sixty or so paintings by this Spanish master. You may know that his full name is Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, that he was born in Valencia, lived from 1863 to 1923 and was married to Clotilde by whom he had a son, Joaquin and two daughters, Maria and Elena.
I knew little about the artist before being overwhelmed by many of his outstanding paintings. The range of subjects, moods and his use of colour – in particular white – is incredible. Diego Velazquez is my favourite artist so I was delighted to see that a number of Sorolla’s works built on those masterpieces of Velazquez. One of most obvious is a nude (1902) of Sorolla’s wife which has its origins in the Rokeby Venus, one of the nine Velazquez’s on display at the National Gallery.
Another clear tribute to Velazquez is the Portrait of Ralph Clarkson (1911), a Chicago artist, which is set against a background of the Infanta Margaret Theresa in ‘Las Meninas’. Yet another is Jose Echegaray (1905) the Spanish Nobel Laureate for literature in a black coat against a plain, light grey background. It harks back to the portrait of Pablo of Valladolid in which Velazquez uses a similar contrast between subject and background.
One of the most moving of Sorolla’s works exhibited here is Sad Inheritance (1896) which portays a number of disabled boys, moving with the aid of sticks, who are bathing naked on the Balvarrosa beach near Valencia. They are supervised by a priest dressed in black. It is a sorrowful scene and Sorolla vowed he’d never paint anything like it again.
I’ll also mention The Smugglers (1910) which shows a group of boatmen bringing their stolen booty on shore. The models for this picture must have braved the perilous slopes of the picture! Surprisigly, Sorolla extended this canvas by about a third, to the right, presumably for dramatic effect. If you look closely, you can even see the join!
Sadly, he died at the age of sixty, following a stroke, in the garden in which he painted the famous study of his wife and daughters. He was an uncompromising genius and I hope this brief article inspires you to see the exhibition. If so I may see you there. I’m certainly going again!
I did a book signing yesterday at Wimbledon WHS at Centre Court and met some amazing people. The former Chief Constable of Kent, Michael Fuller stopped by and bought a copy of ‘Return to Madrid’. What an interesting character, the first ethnic minority cop to reach the rank of Chief Constable. He recently published ‘Shoot the black one first’, the touching story of his struggle to the top. We had a long chat in which I explained my role on ‘the other side of the law’ hahaha at the Home Office.
A lady whose grandson worked in California bought ‘Return’ and Expulsion (for the bargain price of £16!). He loves Spain based novels, it seems. I also talked to an author of ‘grunge punk’ whatever that is! A lady from the Portugal bought ‘Expulsion’ for her dad, bless her.
These youngsters were great fun and wanted their photos taken with a yet to be famous author! Who was I to stop them?
So thank you Ashley the manager for letting me do another signing and his staff, Kelly and Rafael for helping me.
And I’m back today and tomorrow if you’d like to pop along, if only for a chat! There from about 11am to 4pm with a 1pm break for a spot of lunch at Costa!
I promised something new this week about Return to Madrid, my up-coming novel. Here is the blurb, just a taste of what awaits the reader:
It is 1685 and autumn in Madrid. Life there is bad for men but much worse for women. Recently widowed, Francisca needs a new purpose in life. With the odds heavily weighed against her, she decides to investigate the mysterious death, sixteen years before, of her bright and gifted son, while at university. Did he die of some undetected illness? Did he commit suicide? Or was he murdered?
Disguised as mother and son, Francisca and her friend Inés leave Madrid to challenge the staff at Juan’s college, twenty miles away. How can these two women solve this cold case? How will they discover what happened and who can help? What dangers are lurking? Surely, any evidence will be destroyed or lost, after so long… or will it?
This fast moving thriller shows how unyielding determination can help unravel puzzling events of the past. It demonstrates how new friendships can blossom from the smallest of buds.
This spectacular picture, painted by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz, is to form the cover of my next novel, Return to Madrid. Pradilla was commissioned by the state to
paint this huge canvas. The picture shows Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand accepting the surrender of Granada from the last King of the Spanish Moors. It is 18 feet wide by 10 feet tall and is displayed in the Prado, Madrid. It took him three years to paint it! In his later years Pradilla was the Director of this world famous gallery.
The painting will, I think, make an ideal cover as it will wrap around the book quite nicely, giving a stunning portrayal back and front. My cover designer and friend Rohan Renard will be working on the design next week. He found this wonderful picture and I’m really grateful to him for doing so.
Last Friday, 4 January, I had the privilege of giving my ‘Latecomer Novelist’ talk to the Redhill and Reigate U3A group at Park Church in Reigate. I can’t remember feeling more at home among a group of people I hade never met before. I was welcomed by Lynne, who showed me where to park and even help me carry my books into the hall. Mike, the president, also made me welcomed and I spoke, before and after my talk to a number of members about writing and getting published.
The talk seemed to go down well and my sincere thanks are due to Elizabeth who organised my visit, Mike and Lynne and all other members present who listened so patiently and, of course, all those who bought copies of my novels. So, as a result of my visit, I’ll be donating £16 to the Rotary Charity, ‘End Polio Now’ which the Bill and Linda Gates Foundation will make up to £48 in the fight to eradicate polio
This is a nice little story. My son lives in a quaint, pretty little village in Northamptonshire called Kilsby. It’s about 5 miles north of Daventry. It has a new village shop managed by a lovely lady called Andrea. A week or two ago my son went in to buy some supplies and overheard a conversation between Andrea and one of the volunteers, a lady called Margaret who was telling Andrea that all she wanted for Christmas was a nice young man to take her for a ride in his Rolls Royce.
Out of earshot of Margaret, who is in her eighties by the way, Greg told Andrea that his dad was coming up to stay with Greg and Sue for Christmas and that, although dad didn’t own a Rolls Royce he could do at least as well by taking Margaret for a run in his Bentley.
So much to Margaret’s astonishment, dad turned up on Christmas Eve and took Margaret for a little run, only about 5 miles but Margaret was delighted. She wouldn’t stop talking the whole ride and I bet she’s told everyone about how her Christmas wish came true – well, almost! And maybe she was hoping for a younger man!
I was so pleased with the signing I did on Friday at WH Smith’s busy store in Sutton High Street. Once again I met some very interesting people. A lady from Sao Paulo, Brazil bought a copy of ‘Expulsion’ and told me all about her home city. A kind gentleman bought not only a copy of Expulsion but also one of ‘The Harpist of Madrid’ a number of which the shop had in stock. A young lady whose mother might want me to help her publish her novel also stopped by and told me about her mother’s novel and the problems she’d had with her publisher. I promised to see if I can help.
So many thanks Simon Bruckland, the store manager for allowing me to do the signing in his shop and to Dawn his supervising member of staff who set me up and encouraged me! I managed to shift 16 books altogether, a good few hours work and a pleasure to be there!