Austerity hits Goya’s art, not wars, royals

This video says about itself:

The complete series of Goya‘s Disasters of War … with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March 1685 — 28 July 1750).

Famous Spanish artist Francisco Goya (30 March 1746 — 16 April 1828) hated war, as his works show.

He opposed corrupt politicians, as his Caprichos show.

Art historians often cite Goya as an example of an artist mocking princely dynasties in his work.

Goya, Charles IV, king of Spain, and his family

Goya is said to have mocked the Spanish royal family in his portrait painting of them.

Today, 185 years after Goya’s death, the prime minister of Spain, Rajoy, and other leaders of his party, are up to their necks in corruption scandals.

They preach, and practice, austerity for the people in Spain.

They don’t practice austerity for themselves. Or for the royal family; up to its neck in scandals, like them.

They keep spending taxpayers’ money and yet more taxpayers’ money on the wars in which Spain participates. Maybe they even would like to start a new war on top of these other wars: against their European Union and NATO ally Britain, about Gibraltar.

There is no austerity in Spain for bullfighting, paid by taxpayers. There is no austerity in repression of protests.

So, though Goya died 185 years ago, the Spanish government may not like the people seeing his work now.

From The Art Newspaper:

New Goya museum left an empty shell

Spain’s austerity drive halts work in Fuendetodos, the artist’s home town

By Javier Pes and Laurie Rojas

Published online: 08 August 2013

Building work on a E7m museum celebrating the work and legacy of Goya (1746-1828) stopped abruptly in July in the small town in the north east of Spain where the artist was born. The town of Fuendetodos, which has a population of less than 170, depends on income generated by its most famous son. Around 20,000 people visit Francisco de Goya’s birth place, the Casa Natal Goya, a house-museum run by the Fundación Fuendetodos Goya in the town, which is 44km south of Zaragoza, the regional capital of Aragon.

Work began on the new museum in 2009 because the collection had outgrown the Casa Natal Goya. Mayor funders are the Provincial Government of Zaragoza and Spain’s Ministry of Culture. The Mayor of Fuendetodos, Joaquín Gimeno, says: “The [ministry], the organisation that has helped us the most to realise the museum, told us that there is no funding for museums in construction in 2013.” He says that the walls of the building, which has been designed by the Madrid-based architects Matos Castillo, are complete but “it needs to be sealed and finished inside”. He does not know when building work can resume. “The day we get funding again we will keep working on the project.” But the ministry has not given the foundation or the major any indication when this might happen.

Called the Museo del Grabado, referring to printmaking, etching and engraving, the new institution will house a collection of Goya prints including four famous series, “Los Caprichos“, “Los Desastres del Guerra”, “La Tauromaquia” and “Los Disparates“. The foundation’s 4,000-strong collection includes historic and contemporary prints that have been donationed by individuals, artists and galleries. “We have never had funding for acquisitions,” says the mayor. Meanwhile, the foundation continues running workshops and organising exhibitions. Casa Natal Goya currently features the graphic work of the British-born, French-based artist and writer John Berger and his artist son Yves Berger (until 8 September).

The mayor told the Spanish newspaper El Pais that Fuendetodos’s new museum is not an “airport without planes” stressing the strength of the collection. He was referring to the airport of Ciudad Real in La Mancha, central Spain. A symbol of municipal excess during Spain’s building boom, the “ghost” airport, where no plane has landed, is now up for auction. Meanwhile, creditors are owed millions of euros.

Francisco Goya, new book

This video is called Disasters of WarFrancisco José de Goya y Lucientes.

By Christine Lindey in Britain:

Francisco Goya, 1746-1828
by Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen (Taschen, £6.99)

Saturday 12 January 2013

Though it underplays the political context, a new book on the great Francisco Goya is a rewarding introduction to the influential Spanish painter

A well constructed page-turner, attractively designed and copiously illustrated, this book cleverly interweaves biography, patronage and socio-political contexts into discussions of specific works by Francisco Goya,

The Spanish artist’s output was varied, complex and contradictory. An observer of social classes, mores, values and pretensions, he was also a satirist, psychologist and progressive humanist.

He raged at the injustices, hypocrisies and repressions of church and crown yet he depended on commissions from these institutions.

Goya (1746-1828) lived through tumultuous times in his native Spain, then one of Europe’s most reactionary countries. The largely rural, illiterate and poverty-stricken population was ruled by an absolutist monarchy and repressive church, both of which fanned the flames of ignorance, superstition and fear of authority.

Goya was of the “illustrado” (the enlightened), the small minority who welcomed the ideas of the Enlightenment. Born to a craftsman, his work shows a lifelong empathy with the “pueblos” (common people).

During his era, artists in Spain were still mostly dependent on church or court patronage. Goya achieved professional success by obtaining his first commissions from relatively progressive court members when aged 30.

His outstanding portraiture landed him the deputy directorship of the Spanish Academy in 1785 and by 1799 he became Principal Painter to the king. Nevertheless he had to be wary of the Inquisition and of losing his livelihood, especially after the monarchy declared war on revolutionary France in 1793 and the “illustrados” were persecuted.

That year illness temporarily paralysed Goya’s hands and left him deaf. From then onwards he took the unusual step of pursuing his own preoccupations alongside his commissions. He published his noncommissioned Caprichos, a series of 80 etchings satirising the hypocrisies and stupidities of the nobility and clergy and exposing the irrationalities of the human psyche.

Aimed at a wide public they were almost immediately withdrawn from sale, probably due to clerical disapproval.

The brutalities of the Napoleonic invasion of 1808-13 led to conflicted loyalties and a widespread patriotic defence of the nation. But the restoration of the absolutist monarchy in 1813 brought repressions and persecutions.

Goya negotiated an uneasy relationship with the new king and persuaded him to commission two history paintings, purportedly to celebrate patriotic resistance to the Napoleonic invasion.

One such is The Executions Of The Third Of May, 1808 (1814) which remains possibly the greatest celebration of popular resistance and condemnation of military power.

On seeing the paintings’ populist stance, Ferdinand VII banished them to the palace basements, from which they only emerged long after Goya’s death.

In 1824, having seen many “illustrados” persecuted or escaping Spain, Goya exiled himself in France, where he died four years later.

By navigating a fine line between official acceptance and disapproval Goya managed to retain establishment patronage. The book’s authors, Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen, interpret this as opportunist careerism but it can also be understood as an astute way of ensuring material and professional survival, so enabling Goya to develop his revolutionary ideas in form and content.

An example is Goya’s responses to the Napoleonic war, the Madrid famine of 1811-12 and the repressions of the restored monarchy in 1813 which led to the bleak and emotive Disasters Of War (1810-1820), a series of 82 non-commissioned aquatint etchings considered far too subversive to be published.

Finally appearing in 1863, they still resonate two centuries after being made – the power of their emotional truth transgresses the specific circumstances which triggered their creation.

Unlike previous portrayals of war which stressed heroic national victories, Goya expressed grief and horror at the cruelties, famine, impoverishment and indignities of war. Naked, truncated people hang from trees, human corpses are piled callously like abattoir carcasses and fights, rape and murder are commonplace.

They appeal directly to our emotions due to the use of strong tonal contrast, unexpected viewpoints, expressive line and dynamic compositions.

Formal innovations underline the modernity of Goya’s subject matter. Concentrating on essentials, the very lack of specificity in descriptions of locations, dress or surface textures give his prints and paintings their timeless relevance.

Goya was fundamentally a realist in his unflinching observations of the complexities of human character and behaviour and in his engagement with topical events. He was a realist too in encompassing the full range of human consciousness by encompassing the sometimes irrational life of the imagination as well as rational observations of life.

Even his court portraits refuse to idealise the physical ungainliness and intellectual shallowness of their sitters. Born into near-medieval mid-18th century Spain Goya embraced new ideas to create a revolutionary art which anticipated modernism.

Intended for mass publication this book could not be contentious. Its interpretations of Goya’s works emphasise details of his private life and speculations about his psychological states and underplays their political context.

Yet it takes a progressive attitude on social matters and there is an interesting chapter on women’s status and frequent condemnations of clerical oppression.

Recommended as an accessible introduction to this great painter.

Disasters Of War etchings are on show at the Wellcome Institute, Euston Road, London NW1 until February 24. Free. Details:

Goya drawings rediscovered after 130 years

Goya, The Third of May

This is Francisco Goya: The Third of May, 1808.

From The Times in England:

Three exceptional drawings by Goya, the 18th-century Spanish artist, have been rediscovered after 130 years, to the excitement of art historians and collectors.

Such is their importance that they are expected to sell for more than £2 million at Christie’s in London this summer.

All trace of the drawings, which had been in one of the artist’s sketchbooks, had been lost since they were offered for sale in Paris in 1877. They were among 105 drawings dated back to 1796 and had been collected from sketchbooks whose pages he filled with studies of people in various moods and situations.

They do not relate to any known finished works.

In 1877 the 105 drawings sold for between 6 and 140 francs, far from outstanding prices, despite Goya‘s fame. Two of these three rediscovered examples even went unsold. Today the record for a Goya drawing stands at £1.3 million.

The same story as for so many other artists’ works: people who did not contribute a drop of paint, or a single pencil stroke, making lots of money.

Another drawing shows an anguished figure stitched into a dead horse. The image bears an extensive inscription in Goya’s hand, in which he outlined the story behind it. In Saragossa, in the middle of the 18th century, the peasants revolted against a local official called Lampinos, who had been persecuting students and women in the city. Seeking revenge, the people stitched him inside a dead horse where, according to the inscription, “for the whole night he remained alive”.

See also here.

And here.

Goya: Los Caprichos in Los Angeles: here.

Fantasies, Follies and Disasters: The Prints of Francisco de Goya: here.

Rembrandt predecessor of Goya in mocking princely families?

Rembrandt, portrait of Princess Amalia von Solms

The Dutch weekly Leids Nieuwsblad of 18 July has a report by Werner Zonderop of a lecture, by Christopher Brown, of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, in Leiden.

Brown’s subject was famous seventeenth century painter Rembrandt, born 400 years ago in Leiden.

From the report (translated):

[Constantijn] Huygens [private secretary of Prince Frederik Hendrik, “Stadhouder”, that is, literally, in practice hereditary, viceroy … of the king of Spain, no longer recognized by the new Dutch republic, in revolt against Spain’s Habsburg dynasty] made it possible for Rembrandt to get his first commissions at the Stadhouder’s court [in The Hague].

In this way, in 1632, Rembrandt was allowed to paint the portrait of Amalia von Solms [1602-1675], the wife of Frederik Hendrik.

[She was thirty years old then; eighteen years younger than her husband].

However, the princess of Orange, [nee Countess of Solms-Braunfels], did not like the portrait as it turned out, at all.

She thought her appearance had not been idealized.

To her indignation, Rembrandt painted her too much as she really was: the mouth stiff and grim, knob-nosed and fat, with a rather stern look.

Goya, Charles IV, king of Spain, and his family

Maybe a bit in the vein of Goya a century and half later, who is said to have mocked the Spanish royal family in his portrait painting of them.

Rembrandt did not continue to work for the would-be monarchs’ court in The Hague. Its princes ultimately longed for absolute monarchy like in most other European countries then; including the principality of Orange in France, ruled by the Stadhouders’ dynasty.

Rembrandt went to Amsterdam, where the merchant bourgeoisie often did not see eye to eye with the Orange princely family.

Madame Van Solms had a somewhat Imelda Marcos like reputation of wasting taxpayers’ money on expensive jewelry; contributing to tensions that would later lead to the “Regenten” (upper bourgeoisie in government) temporarily abolishing the office of Stadhouder.

Gerard van Honthorst, portrait of Amalia von Solms

Princess Amalia much prefered Gerard van Honthorst painting her to Rembrandt.

Even after eighteen years of aging since the Rembrandt portrait, Honthorst made her look more attractive.

Rembrandt and Goya: here.