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goya: the sleep of reason produces monstersThursday, 11.5.04: Goya

I will add Francisco Goya (1746-1828) to my list of exiled artists.

Goya served as director of painting at the [Spanish]Royal Academy from 1795 to 1797 and was appointed first Spanish court painter in 1799. During the Napoleonic invasion and the Spanish war of independence from 1808 to 1814, Goya served as court painter to the French. He expressed his horror of armed conflict in The Disasters of War, a series of starkly realistic etchings on the atrocities of war...

Upon the restoration of the Spanish monarchy, Goya was pardoned for serving the French, but his work was not favored by the new king. He was called before the Inquisition to explain his earlier portrait of The Naked Maja, one of the few nudes in Spanish art at that time.

In 1816 he published his etchings on bullfighting, called the Tauromaquia. From 1819 to 1824 Goya lived in seclusion in a house outside Madrid. Free from court restrictions, he adopted an increasingly personal style. In the Black Paintings, executed on the walls of his house, Goya gave expression to his darkest visions. A similar nightmarish quality haunts the satirical Disparates, a series of etchings also called Proverbios.

In 1824, after the failure of an attempt to restore liberal government, Goya went into voluntary exile in France. He settled in Bordeaux, continuing to work until his death there on April 16, 1828.

It isn't clear why he went into voluntary exile at the end. His work seems clearly political and yet Thomas Craven writes:

...it is by no means certain that he disapproved of war as an institution; he had no sympathies with causes or movements, but instead, an insatiable curiosity in life and the energy to indulge it, and through his own hardships, a far-reaching knowledge of the feelings of the poor and of the cannon-fodder. He saw horrible things and his blood boiled, but in expressing his experiences, his purpose was not to show the iniquity of war but how men and women behave in circumstances of tragedy and suffering. And he shows it! He avoids the scattered action of the battlefield, and confines himself to isolated scenes of butchery.

This evening we watched Goya in Bordeaux, a stylized account of Goya's last days in Bordeaux. He is an old man having nightmares and hallucinations about his life as an artist and lover.

Goya is supposed to be the first modern artist and I fell in love with his work when I visited the Prado in Madrid in 1968. I wasn't interested in his courtly paintings or even his famous majas. I loved his violent etchings. Bullfights and other nightmares. I bought all the postcards I could find of them and carried them around with me for years.

*

"Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels."

"La fantasia abandonada de la razon, produce monstruos imposibles: unida con ella, es madre de las artes y origen de sus marabillas."


 

 

NOTES

Goya in Bordeaux (1999)

 

 

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