In 1903 Sorolla painted Sol de la Tarde (Hispanic Society of America, New York) which represented the full incarnation of the ideal he had been pursuing in his painting. This work set the stage for the formation of his unique, self-taught style in his later works such as Clotilde y Elena en las Rocas, Jávea. Sorolla wrote to Rodolfo Gil at the time he was working on this painting: "Now my hands completely obey my eyes and my feelings."
By 1905 when Clotilde y Elena en las Rocas, Jávea was painted, Sorolla was in the full maturity of his artistic talents. He had received international acclaim for his paintings, culminating with the Grand Prix at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, and numerous decorations including: Caballero de la Gran Cruz de Isabel la Católica, Hijo Predilecto de Valencia, Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, as well as election as an Academician to three of the most prestigious art institutions of the time, those of Paris, Lisbon and Valencia.
The work of Sargent, Zorn, Boldini and Liebermann has often been compared with that of Sorolla, and no contemporary collection was complete with out at least one of these masters. Sorolla was the pre-eminent Spanish painter of the period and his influence on his compatriots is evident in their adaptation of his unique style in their own work. Zorn, whose work he had first seen in 1899 at the Exposition Universelle, became a close friend and their lifelong correspondence shows their shared artistic vision. This was true also of Sargent who Sorolla emulated in his portraiture and whom Sorolla, in turn, influenced with his landscapes.
Clotilde y Elena en las Rocas, Jávea is executed with confidence and spontaneity in a manner that shows Sorolla working directly onto the canvas, without adjustment. Sorolla had visited Jávea with his family for the summer months to paint the Mediterranean sea with its intense color and the long coastline which was so different from that of Valencia and he painted seventy-three pictures during this stay. Sorolla had first fallen in love with the small Alicante village on a trip in 1896. On that occassion Sorolla had travelled alone and the letters to his wife Clotilde express the emotion that the beauty of the place impressed upon him and his desire to share it with her: "Jávea is sublime, immense, the best place for a painter...I will be here a few days. If you will be here with me, then two months" and "this is a place that I have always dreamed of, sea and mountain, and what a sea!...the Cabo de San Antonio is another marvel; a monument of enormous, red color, and the color of the clear waters and the brilliant, pure green, a colossal emerald."
Clotilde y Elena en las Rocas, Jávea shows the intensity of Sorolla's palette reaching new heights. The critic Rafael Domenech refered to this moment in the artist's work when he wrote in 1910, "There chromatic boldness did not exist before Sorolla did these" and Bernardino de Pantorba comments, "Sorolla, without increasing the colors in his palette, as with all the few true colorists, extended and multiplied the number of nuances, and thus the number of the bold contrasts, and profited by the harmonies of the blues, yellows, violets, cadmiums, greens and reds, without loosing the rich modulations of white, the color which he used most notably. Even the half lighting of the landscape does not get in his way..." (op. cit.). Sorolla frequently used members of his family as models such as his eldest daughter, Maria (e.g. fig 1, Maria mirando los Peces, La Granja, Private Collection, Christie's, New York, October 25, 1996, lot 97). Our picture he depicts his wife Clotilde and youngest daughter Elena. He chooses to paint the scene with the light of the afternoon, using the Cabo de San Antonio as the background and shows the figures illuminated by the reflective light of the water and rocks as they walk in the cool shade along the shore.
When Sorolla traveled to Jávea in 1905 he was preparing for a large exhibition that was to take place at Galerie Georges Petit in Paris the following year. Clotilde and Elena en las Rocas, Jávea was exhibited in this show (fig. 2). The painting was sold at the time of the exhibition for the large sum of 20,000 French francs to Sorolla's great admirer, the painter Pedro Gil Moreno de Mora who had met Sorolla in Paris and remained a lifelong friend.
We are grateful to Blanca Pons-Sorolla for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.