Portrait of a Lady

Selections from the Nasher Museum of Art

Portrait of Mary  Lillian Duke By Joaquin Sorolla y

Portrait of Mary 
Lillian Duke
By Joaquin Sorolla y 
Bastida, 1911
Oil on canvas
83 x 44 3/8 inches
Gift of Nicholas 
Benjamin Duke Biddle, 1991


The Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923) was one of the most celebrated painters of the turn of the century. He found success in both America and Europe, not only with his portraits, but also with his paintings of historical events and Spanish subjects drawn from everyday life. Educated first in Valencia, he then went to Madrid in 1881, where he carefully studied the techniques of seventeenth-century Spanish artists at the Prado Museum, especially the painterly treatment of light by Diego Vel·zquez and the brushwork and realism of Jusepe de Ribera. Early on, he adopted his Spanish colleague Ignacio Pinazo Camarlech's preference for painting outdoors.

Sorolla traveled widely, to Rome and Paris, and to England, where he first encountered his American contemporary, John Singer Sargent. The two artists are known to have exchanged paintings and shared pupils, sometimes in a competitive spirit.

On his first visit to the United States in 1909, Sorolla brought with him 375 paintings for a solo exhibition at the Hispanic Society of America in New York City. The exhibit was a huge success, drawing crowds of more than 150,000 and commissions from some of New York society's elite families, including the Huntingtons, Morgans, and Tiffanys.

Sorolla made a second trip to the U.S. in 1911, at the invitation of the Hispanic Society, which commissioned him to paint a series of Spanish regional scenes and customs for its building. In the same year, Benjamin N. Duke commissioned four family portraits by the artist, including that of his daughter, for his newly constructed New York City mansion near the Metropolitan Museum. Mary Lillian Duke, who graduated from Trinity College in 1907, is depicted here as she looked four years before she married Anthony Drexel Biddle Jr. Her children were Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans '39, Hon. '83 and Nicholas Benjamin Duke Biddle.

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