When the celebrated Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863−1923) died, his widow left a large number of his works to the Spanish public. They are still housed in the artist’s home in Madrid, now the Museo Sorolla. We spoke to Consuelo Luca de Tena, the museum’s director, about her plans for the collection and the building.
Can you tell us a bit about the museum’s history?
The museum was founded by the artist Joaquín Sorolla’s widow, who left the family house and her personal collection to the estate to create a museum. The museum opened in 1932 and was run as a private foundation; afterwards it passed to the state and now depends on the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport. Even so, the ‘Fundación Museo Sorolla’ still exists and supports the museum.
What makes this museum unique?
The perfect conservation of the house with all the furniture and the beautiful collection of works by Joaquín Sorolla make a very singular combination. The beautiful small garden is a luxury in the centre of the city.
How does it relate to the local area?
The museum is not in the most touristic neighbourhood of Madrid, but it is a nice very area and many inhabitants come frequently to events or simply to sit in the garden. We maintain a good relationship with the local authorities (barrio de Chamberí) and the main hotels around, which send us visitors.
What are the greatest challenges of running a small museum?
Lack of space, mainly.
What is your personal highlight from the collection?
My favourite is The pink robe, a young girl about to take off her wet dress after bathing in the sea. She is visibly enjoying the coolness after the bath and the breeze under the shade, while streaks of sunlight hit her body.
How well you do you feel you know the collection? Does it continue to surprise you?
I have been here for three years now, and I know the painting collection quite well, but there are many documents, letters, photographs etc., that always keep surprises for me.
How has the museum developed during your tenure?
The garden has recovered its beauty and colour, all rooms have been newly painted and we have implemented a procedure to review the collections systematically so that any alteration can be detected immediately. We have increased the number and quality of activities at the museum, and we have initiated a programme of temporary exhibitions drawn from our own collections.
Visitor numbers have increased from 121,937 in 2010 to 179,549 in 2013. We have a new office and library, very close to the museum building. This will allow us to provide a better service, and has freed up some very useful space in the historic building.
And what does the future hold for the museum?
We are planning and important extension that will double the surface area of the museum; the space is already bought and we are working now on the project.
Consuelo Luca de Tena is the director of the Museo Sorolla in Madrid.