Goya’s Prints: The Dawn of Modern Art
Blanton Museum of Art
Through March 7, 2010
Post by Lauren Adams
If you are wandering the corridor’s of the Blanton Museum of Art not sure what to do with yourself while between exhibitions, it is well worth your time to stop by the small exhibition featuring prints by the Spanish Master Goya. Goya’s Prints: The Dawn of Modern Art is located in the upstairs print gallery, and although the area seems tiny in comparison to the major exhibition space, it offers a view into the later years of this world renowned artist.
Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes was a household name even during his lifetime. Although in the 1700’s he was known for his grand portraits of royalty and depictions of the frivolity surrounding the upper class, the modern viewer maybe more familiar with the work produced in his disenchanted older age. After living through French invasions, civil strife, the formidable Spanish Inquisition, and an illness that left him deaf, Goya’s work no longer contained the sunny disposition it once had.
One release for the torments of this troubled artists was in his prints, some of which were so controversial they could not be published in Goya’s lifetime. The Blanton, whose private collection holds over thirty of Goya’s prints, presents a selection from four groups of work by this artist, La Tauromaquia (Bullfighters), Los Disparates, Los Caprichos and Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War). All of which contain commentary on the current social climate of Spain and various ways in which the common person had suffered at the hands of various foreign or national powers.
The prints are dark not only in their content, but also in their construction. If you take a moment to view the prints housed in the neighboring galleries, what you will find are smooth, clean lines and clear depictions of the moods and actions of the figures. Although some examples of Goya’s work does coincide with these observations, his most striking pieces are quite a contrast from this model. Many pieces, such as Disparate General, have a fast, sketchy quality to the scene. The figures loom in and out of large, inky shadows, with their faces shaded to the point of being disfigured.
The scenes are a jumble of metaphor and fear with an underlying current of deep revulsion towards humanity. Goya stresses how far man has fallen with the representation of shadowy goblins and devils hovering over figures and prodding them on their wicked ways. Although the devilish figures are haunting enough, what is most disturbing is the portrayal of the eyes of the human figures. The majority of the people, even those lurking in the shadows, have round, bulging eyes that seem to pop from their heads. This conveys a sense of madness within the figures, as if they are carrying out their evil deeds in a frenzied, dehumanizing trance.
This small collection of prints is not a group meant to brighten your day. It is, however, a captivating glimpse into the psychological state of Goya towards the end of his life, that of a royal painter haunted by the atrocities of humanity.