Monday Lectures

15 February 2021

Goya's Graphic Imagination

Opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this month is one of the most complete exhibitions of Francisco Goya’s graphic works ever held in the United States.

 

Goya’s evolution and his different phases as a graphic artist are illuminated in the Met exhibition through a broadly chronological presentation of approximately 100 works across three galleries. Spanning six decades, the works reflect the transformation and turmoil of the Enlightenment, the Inquisition, and Spain’s years of constitutional government.

 

They will range from Goya’s early etchings after Velázquez through print series such as the Caprichos and The Disasters of War to his late lithographs, The Bulls of Bordeaux, and include albums of drawings that reveal the artist’s nightmares, dreams, and visions.

 

The exhibition will include many standout drawings. The small Self-Portrait (ca. 1796) captures both Goya’s appearance and his astounding psychological intensity. For wagging his tongue in a different way (ca. 1810–11) speaks to his empathy for the accused in trials and punishments carried out by the Holy Office of the Inquisition.

 

Prints provided Goya with another platform from which he could develop new techniques that facilitated the presentation of compelling subjects. He is today considered, along with Rembrandt, one of the greatest printmakers of all times. He produced long series that explored subjects such as human folly, superstition, relations between the sexes, and war. The Caprichos (1799) was intended for wide distribution, whereas The Disasters of War (1810–15) was never published in his lifetime. At a late age, Goya took up lithography. He mastered the technique and produced the Bulls of Bordeaux (1825), regarded as among the most remarkable examples of the medium ever produced.

Goya - Self-portrait of Goya Plate 1 from 'Los Caprichos', 1799