Updated: 1 day ago
Valencia has always had a vibrant and dynamic art scene steeped in hundreds of years of
history - from art nouveau to baroque and traditional masterpieces to contemporary street art.
Some of Spain's most innovative and influential artists have called this inspiring coastal city their home. Inspiration can be found almost everywhere here - from wandering around the bustling, winding streets of El Carmen or admiring the brutal, modernist architecture of the Arts and Sciences Museum to sun-soaked strolls along the city's sprawling beaches, watching the waves ripple along the sparkling Mediterranean Sea.
Valencia's 'Master of Light'
- Self portrait of Joaquin Sorolla-
Joaquin Sorolla, born in Valencia in 1863, was one of the most renowned artists from Spain. His two greatest muses were his wife, Clotilde, with whom he enjoyed a loving and passionate marriage, and his birth town, Valencia.
Many of his best works captured the intense light and broad horizon of the Mediterranean city’s sweeping coastlines, with his detailed attention to light sparking the development of his style named “luminismo”. By 1900, he was considered the most famous of all Spanish artists and had acquired international status within the art scene.
In June 1920, he suffered a stroke while painting in the garden and died three years later. He was buried in his hometown of Valencia like a state hero in the presence of thousands of mourners. But his legacy lives not only in Valencia and across the country and the global art scene.
Sorolla's city and muse
But what did Valencia look like through Sorolla's eyes?
- Sorolla's luminism is expressed through his painting called ''Chicos en la playa'' -
Sorolla famously stated, “My painting is Valencia's beach and the blessed sun, which I love more every day.”
Joaquin Sorolla's paintings featured scenes from Valencian beaches and were often executed there in the open air, as proven by the grains of sand embedded in the textured surfaces of his paintings. One of his most famous works, 'Chicos en la playa' (Children on the beach), depicts the crystal blue Mediterranean waters and three naked children in various poses.
However, despite female figures being a common theme in his works, Sorolla didn't limit himself to portraying women and children lounging on Valencian beaches. He was also greatly inspired by the magnificent Valencian architecture of his time, such as the beautiful Plaza del Mercado steps, where Valencia's iconic Central Market stands. This stunning spot is the setting for his piece, ' El Grito de Palleter' (The Shout of the Palleter).
Paving the way
- Monument to the painter Ignacio Pinazo Camarlench -
But Sorolla wasn’t the only acclaimed artist to find inspiration in Valencia. Several other artists who call Valencia their home - both new and old - have greatly influenced Spain's thriving art scene. Spain’s third-largest city is home to a range of public art galleries exhibiting original works by Valencian artists from the Middle Ages to the 21st century.
If you prefer brutalist sculptures to paintings, Catalunyan-born Julio Gonzales (1876-1942) is considered one of the best sculptors of the 20th century. Greatly inspired by his friend, Pablo Picasso, Gonzales' welded sculptures are both elegant and severe, with many of his works attempting to convey the horror of the Civil War.
Street art fans will also be blown away by the considerable variety of street art, and murals that adorn the city walls. From El Carmen to El Cabanyal, there is no shortage of aesthetically pleasing, politically motivated graffiti and murals to discover. Escif's murals (1996-1997) are minimalist reflections on the mundane urban life, while Julieta XLF's has transformed run-down streets into colourful, Japanese-inspired works of art featuring playful shapes and powerful heroines.
An art lover's itinerary
Here is our definitive guide to Valencia for art lovers.
- St. Pius V Palace hosting Museum of Fine Arts or Museu de Belles Arts de Valencia -
Step back into the Renaissance.
To gaze at Joaquin Sorolla's beautiful textured paintings up close, visit ''El Museo de Bellas Artes de Valencia'' (The Fine Arts Museum of Valencia). Here, you can discover 42 of his pieces, immerse yourself in the Joaquin Sorolla biography, and explore an interesting collection of artworks from the Romantic era to the Renaissance, focusing primarily on medieval art from churches and convents across the Valencian region.
Immerse yourself in modern art.
For modern and contemporary art fans, visit 'L’Institut Valencià d’Art Modern'' (IVAM) to explore Julio Gonzales’ impressive collection of sculptures and Ignacio Pinazo’s (1849-1916) intricate sketches of rural Spanish life. The IVAM also hosts various temporary exhibitions designed to make visitors reflect on aesthetic discourses from the avant-garde period to the current day and many conferences and events relating to arts and culture.
Wander around El Carmen
Take a free street art tour around Valencia's Bohemian El Carmen neighbourhood for a truly unique experience for street art fans. However, if you prefer to create your adventure, grab a camera and stroll around the city centre by yourself, trying to spot as many iconic murals as possible.
Keep an eye out for recurring themes, such as David Limon's cheeky figure or Deih's comic-book-like zombie characters, which seem to appear on every street corner in Valencia's city centre.
Experience the Fallas festivities.
Visit Valencia in March during the UNESCO-awarded Fallas celebrations to be dwarfed by huge, brightly coloured sculptures constructed in streets and Plazas across the city.
So large are these impressive sculptures that they are often as tall as the buildings surrounding them. Throughout the year, ''artistas-falleros'' (Fallas artists) design and realise these extraordinary sculptures (known as 'fallas'), ranging in themes from the bizarre to the political. Salvador Dalí even designed one in 1954.
Please read our article on Valencia Fallas 2023 here.
Art tours on two wheels
We recommend hopping on a bike and cycling around the city to see as many remarkable art works as possible. The best and biggest sculptures are usually constructed in the neighbourhoods of Ruzafa, the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, and the Plaza del Pilar.
So, when planning your next trip to this stunning, sun-soaked city, take advantage of the wealth of extraordinary artwork at your fingertips. There’s only so much we can tell you in this short article.
Please read our hotel reviews and recommendations to choose the right boutique hotel and discover Valencia's artistic side.