Choc-a-block with world class museums as well as small independent galleries, Madrid really is Spain’s capital for culture.
Home to art museums such as the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza that are already must-dos for any art lover coming to Madrid, it’s easy to miss the wealth of other galleries available in Madrid. One of these is the not so well-known Museo Sorolla. Tucked away behind a wall on busy Martinez Campos street in Madrid’s city centre, Museo Sorolla is dedicated to the work of Joaquín Sorolla, a painter from Valencia and famous for his landscapes and portraits painted in an impressionist style.
Despite being a big arts and culture fan, I had no idea who Sorolla was. In fact, I only made it a stop in my visit to Madrid because Steve, my colleague (and boss!) said I shouldn’t miss it. And I’m so glad I didn’t too.
An oasis in the city
After you walk in through the gate, you’ll immediately find yourself in what feels like an oasis away from the city. Just the other side of that wall is a beautifully manicured garden – full of the sweet smell of flowers. As an aside, if you like flowers and are in Madrid, read our post on Madrid flower power in a vending machine. Trees surround the garden to help you feel like you must have crossed into another world away from the city. The sound of trickling water from the beautiful water fountains also help to make you feel relaxed. I’ve headed straight here from Madrid Airport as I’m not meeting my couch-host until the early evening and the early morning start and day spent travelling feels long-forgotten.
Take a seat
There are benches dotted around as well as a lovely area with seats and tables so you can rest awhile and really soak it all up. After wandering around the garden for a bit, I decide to go check out what this Sorolla is about and enjoy the garden again afterwards!
Sorolla lived here
I buy my ticket (a bargain at €3 including audio – which is worth it if you’re like me and don’t know much about him) and discover that the museum is actually Sorolla’s former home! This just adds another level to the experience as an art museum. Now we have some history as well as being able to get the chance to nose around someone’s home. The area where the ticket and main reception area is also has toilets and lockers for your bags (useful for me coming straight from the airport!). There is also a small room connected to a lovely patio – both of which is home to some of his ceramics collection.
The main entrance to the exhibition is across the entrance of the ticket reception up some short steps – decorated with beautiful tiles. Despite not being on the Mediterranean, you feel like you could be!
Inside, are several large rooms with his paintings throughout his life. And they’re beautiful. Standing looking at his seascapes, you really are struck by the light he captures in them. You can almost feel the sun on you face.
Women on the beach
Losing myself in Sorolla’s seascapes, I really started to crave heading to the coast and in your Madrid car hire you can! Drive your Madrid car hire to Valencia and see the coastline that inspired Sorolla.
Walking through the various rooms, you’re also introduced to his study and studio as well as to the living room area and dining room. Lots of it very much in keeping with how it would have been used when Sorolla and his family lived there. For those of you who love nosing around old homes, this is perfect.
There’s a love story too
Sorolla and Clotilde
Up the stairs, there is a temporary exhibition that focuses on Clotilde, Sorolla’s wife. Seeing his paintings down below, you’ll already have got some understanding of Sorolla’s devotion to his wife and family – they feature heavily in his work. Up here though, you get to know that a little better. With old photos of the couple and more sketches and paintings of Clotilde, you are told the love story of Clotilde and Joaquín Sorolla.
Even if you’re not a big art lover, Sorolla’s work is perhaps more accessible then what you’ll find in the grander museums. It’s worth combining with a trip to one of the bigger museums – I was in Madrid only for a couple of days and visited Reina Museum one evening. Unless you’re an art devotee, I’d maybe just do one of the big museums – bear in mind they’re huge and it’ll take time to really appreciate the art that they are home to. They also house very different types of work so look them up before you go so you can choose one you’ll appreciate the most.
More culture in Madrid
Museo Reina Sofia
Museo Reina Sofia houses a modern and contemporary art collection in an 18th century former hospital and the contemporary looking Nouvel building that was opened in 2005. With a great collection of Dalis, Picassos and other famous artists on the lower floors, you’ll find them full of visitors wanting a closer look. Higher up, are temporary exhibitions that are also worth your time for something different and are easier to spend time considering (I must admit my brain hurt a little bit after all the considering!) as fewer visitors venture up there.
Art on the rooftop
But to help you with that, several small bars serve beer and other refreshments – including one on the terrace where you can enjoy the Nouvel building at its best as well as see some great views of Madrid. There is also a large bar/café lounge area on the ground floor of the Nouvel building that serves tapas type sandwiches as well as drinks. It’s also pretty funky and spacious too.
Museo Sorolla General Martinez Campos, 37
28010 - Madrid www.museosorolla.mcu.es (website in spanish)
General admission is €3
Museo Reina Sofia 52 Santa Isabel Street
28012 Madrid www.museoreinasofia.es
General admission is €6 – you can avoid large groups doing day tours and come in the evening for free between 7 and 9pm on Monday to Friday. They have free periods during the weekend too; find out more on their website. I actually got in for free but because I’d spent the sunny afternoon in Parque Retiro (I’ll be doing a post on Madrid’s parks and green spaces soon!) and visited Palacio de Velázquez and Palacio de Cristal which are fabulous buildings themselves and house some of the museum’s collection. Anyway, on entry to Palacio de Velázquez, they gave me a free ticket to Reina Sofia Museum. I love free stuff!
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