I’m always thinking about Goya. The brashness of his political statements resonates. The forcefulness of his etched lines and bold pigments compels. The mastery of his brush over commissioned portraits as well as chaotic dreamlands awes. My endless musings about Goya, artists, exhibitions, and galleries in general inspired me to write a column for The Tufts Daily. As you read, I invite you to become an art connoisseur or even an art critic, using Boston’s wealth of art to do so.
The dark period of Goya, characterized by superstition, devotion, dreams and death, was juxtaposed against his earlier works of conformity in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’s (MFA) exhibition on the artist. Featuring a collection of seventy-one works on paper from the MFA — in combination with loans from the Museo del Prado, the Louvre, the Met and the Hispanic Society of America in New York — the show traced the path from how Goya outwardly viewed himself to how Goya interpreted the troubled humanity that surrounded him. Showcasing his bold combination of pigments in the striking portrait “María Del Pilar Teresa Cayetana De Silva Álvarez De Toledo Y Silva” (1797) as well as his carefully etched dark political critiques of “Los Caprichos” (1797-1798), the exhibition captured the versatility of Goya as an artist.
Through tracing the exhibition path, one was let into the meticulous mind of Goya. His creative genius trafficked between depicting the leisure of aristocracy to revealing the plight of an innocent citizen in the Peninsular War. As a painter, printmaker, and draftsman, Goya created his works from a mixture of media. The show at the MFA successfully captured the multi-faceted nature of Goya as an artist and the commonality of themes that preoccupied the artist’s work across centuries.
Bridging the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Francisco Goya’s work pioneered the transition from Old Masters to Moderns. Striving to depict the myriad of human conditions and emotions, Goya’s work is as relevant today as it was at its creation. Goya attempts to represent transient states of humanity. To do so he employed rapid brush stokes to capture the fleeting emotions of a mortal world, crafting a tangible spectrum of imperfect human emotions. Fixating at the gradual rise and decline of the human race, Goya examines how order gradually slips into incoherent disorder. Even in works that appear to be blessed with rare tranquility, often a tension exists that implies the lurking chaos not yet pictured.
In particular, I am drawn to this tension exhibited in Goya’s works: the constant struggle between harmony and chaos.
Goya’s works are characteristically dark in both subject palate and nature, but they feature foreboding infusions of light, which signal the “light” or radical change to come. Even in his work “The Third of May, 1808″(1814-1815), the light of a revolutionary change follows the gruesome massacre. The struggle to impose order on a life characterized by disorder is a goal many of us can easily relate to. Goya’s work addresses these opposite poles of perfection and failure, a tension that transcends the works’ 19th century context.
While Goya himself is a revolutionary artist, I left the exhibition with very mixed thoughts, questioning the cohesion of the show’s arrangement as well as the arbitrary thematic divides. The exhibition was hard to traffic; the off-putting construction of temporary walls and lack or abundance of wall text caused a disjointed viewing of the exhibition. The majority of the exhibition set up late-period Goya, or as the MFA referred to it “solo Goya.” However, a consequence of this suspenseful setup was that the “Disasters of War”(1810-1820) prints lost their individual impact when stacked at the end. Nonetheless, an exhibition comprised of this number of Goya’s works in the United States is a significant event in itself. For those not able to make it out to the exhibition, which closed January 19th, I encourage you to look up some of the show’s highlights, such as “Seated Giant” (1818) and “Witches’ Sabbath”(1797-1798) to catch a glimpse of the gravity of this exhibition.