Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Francisco Goya

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746 – 1828) was a Spanish painter who was best known while he was alive for his portraiture. Now we know him not for his portraits but for his works that were published towards the end of his life or once he had died. Two of his main works are: a set of 80 etchings that explore and satirise superstitions accross late 18th, early 19th century Spain - 'los caprichos'; and another, later set of 80 odd etchings on 'the disasters of war' which serves as social commentary towards the Peninsular War (1807-14). Because of the time he was alive, he is considered significant in that he saw the passage from the Baroque to Neoclassical phase (old school stuff 1600-1800) to the Romanticism to Fin-de-Siecle phase (beginnings of modernity/ early modernism 1800-1900) (fits in ever so wonderfully with my course!)

Dance of the Majos on the Banks of the Manzanares, 1777
The 'old school' style he was most sympathetic with is probably Rococo looking at this (and neoclassicism at some points later on too). It has all the pastel colours, chirpiness, gayness (in any sense of the word), movement...

The Crockery Vendor, 1779
Again, Rococococococo. I've got 'flirtation' written in my notes which is also a big part of Rococo that I haven't mentioned much! You always get the idea that women are actually ENJOYING themselves around men and actively engaging in spending time with them and perhaps even flirting.

Witches in the Air, 1797-98
One of his commentaries of social folly. Right up until the 19th century Spanish people lived in fear of some really bizarre superstitions. I'm not talking about avoiding three drains or walking around ladders - this was about voodoo, witches, black magic etc. Although this intends to make superstitions look silly, we also get a sense that Goya was deeply fascinated with this stuff. The clothes these lot are wearing are similar to what people damned in the inquisition wore (which, by the way, was the same line of witch hunting that had ended centuries before in other countries in Europe! they seriously hung on to these superstitions)

Self-Portrait in the Workshop, 1790-95
He shows himself solely as a painter, not intellectual or pretentious. He has an intense gaze and as ever people enjoy reading far too much meaning into painting. His unreadable expression is supposedly meant to look forward to his future breakdown. I think that is unlikely. As I said, it is difficult to read but if I was going to guess then I'd guess that his face is meant to be mid eye-roll saying something like 'what the fuck are these lot like?'

Yard of a Madhouse, 1794
He's beginning to look away from Rococo and the enlightened world of the Spanish court (the court wasn't so superstitious at least) to the world of his imagination - which happens to be influenced by a lot of dark immagery.

 Portrait of the Dutches of Alba, 1797
This woman here is a) supposedly the woman he loved and b) supposedly writing his name in the sand. Is he describing his social status? or how the woman he loves makes him feel because of the inevitable unrequited love?

As Far Back as his Grandfather, 1797-8  (etching and aquatint) (los Caprichos)
Taking the piss out of aristocrats. He's insinuating that they'd hang on to their right to be rich and powerful because their ancestors may happen to have been the second-cousin-twice-removed of some Earl or Duke somewhere or rather.
Out Hunting for Teeth!, 1797-8  (etching and aquatint) (los Caprichos)
Satirising popular superstition that if you have a toothache, you can cure it by taking the tooth of a dead person!

Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, 1798
Typical portrait of the enlightened man at his desk. He appears fed - up yet consolidates his intelligence with his notebook in his hand. He shows that men of enlightenment can have feelings but not let those feelings consume them. Looks more Venetian than French neoclassicism.

The Chinchillas, 1799  (etching and aquatint)  (Los Caprichos)
The mans ears are padlocked and he is being spoonfed by a donkey. The men are clearly those who helped carry out the execution of so-called 'witches' because they have the coats of the executioners on; and the donkey is perhaps the ruling class of whom told them to do so, via some sort of brain-washing.

Majas on a Balcony, 1800
How creepy are the men in the background?! they are symbolic of the protectors of virtue. They appear extremely sinister!

The Colossus, 1808
This is a personification of war - a giant colossus destroying everything in it's path - unsurprisingly it was painted during the Peninsular war.

The Executioners and Defenders of Madrid, 1808
Or otherwise, 'the Third of May'. This image has influenced the likes of Guernica by Picasso and Vietnam II by Leon Golub. It has remained so memorable throughout the years because of the fact that the executioners are anonymous. To feel as if we've appreciated a scene such as this most of us like to face the evil in the eye and overcome it. Here, we can't! The fact that so many modern painters have referenced it tells us that war and punishment continues to be a faceless crime - but as we can see here - certainly not victimless.

Que Coraje, 1810-1815 (etching and aquatint) (disasters of war)
How Courageous! Shes come out of hiding, into harms way, to perhaps re-align the cannon or something. A nice portrayal of women. Yay.

What More Can One Do? 1810-1815 (etching and aquatint) (disasters of war)
There were EIGHTY-THREE of these, he was clearly passionate about the subject. The French were said to castrate men and rape women... A transitional piece from englightenment to romanticism.

This is Bad, 1810-15 (etching and aquatint) (disasters of war)
This, curiously, is a defence on Goya's behalf towards the clergy. Although he didn't have much time for the church he did think attacking one was bad.

This is Worse, 1810-1815 (etching and aquatint) (disasters of war)
But, of course, this is a worse fate than being stabbed! This is so so so so creepy because the bloke, surely, must be dead - but he's doing that creepy horror film turn of his head thing! yuck.

 The Inquisition Tribunal, 1812-19
Here he's making a point that although the French had been defeated, this stuff was still going on - so what was the point!?

Nothing, the Event Will Tell, (etching and aquatint) (disasters of war), 1812-20

Saturn Devouring One of his Children, 1819-23
I suppose this is meant to portray how the Spanish could kill their own, despite having just gone through a horrendous war. On the other hand, Saturn was also known as Chronos. Chronos castrated his own father, Uranus. Perhaps that is another reference to the war.

A Pilgrimage to San Isidro, 1820
Tortured faces in extreme despair. Some assume this is an extension of his inner troubles but then some of his paintings at this time were normal.

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