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Joaquín Sorolla, The Drunkard, Zarauz (El Borracho, Zarauz)

Key facts
Full title The Drunkard, Zarauz (El Borracho, Zarauz)
Artist Joaquín Sorolla
Artist dates 1863 - 1923
Date made 1910
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 115 × 140 cm
Inscription summary signed; dated
Acquisition credit Bought with the support of a generous legacy from David Leslie Medd, OBE, 2019
Inventory number NG6683
Location Room 41
Collection Main Collection
The Drunkard, Zarauz (El Borracho, Zarauz)
Joaquín Sorolla

Five drinkers gather in a tavern in Zarauz, the Basque coastal town where Joaquín Sorolla spent the summer of 1910. One stares at the artist through watery eyes while another pushes cider towards him, egging on the inebriate to further excess. A third glances menacingly at the painter. The canvas edges cut off two further figures, as in an awkward amateur snapshot. This large-scale, improvisatory sketch is one of six tavern scenes Sorolla painted that summer.

It marks a turning point in his career as, for the first time in ten years, Sorolla depicted peasants in the sometimes harsh reality of their lives. He also returned to the distinctively Spanish blacks, greys and browns of Velázquez’s and Goya’s palettes, sparingly used for a decade. Here, Sorolla created one of his saddest works: a depiction of mockery, cruelty and addiction at the lower depths and a bravura exercise in compassionate observation.

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