Goya

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April 11, 2017 – MCAT CARS Passage

Question: What is your summary of the author’s main ideas. Post your own answer in the comments before reading those made by others.

Today, Francisco de Goya Lucientes (1746-1828) is best remembered for producing dark, nightmarish works. His Black Paintings, murals on the walls of his house, painted late in his life, have become synonymous with his name. But in his own time he was a celebrated portraitist. His portraits provide a commentary on a society that was undergoing dramatic changes, and in his time as a portraitist Goya managed to capture the protagonists of these changes: the Ancien Régime in Spain, enlightenment intellectuals, French invaders, Wellington on his arrival in Madrid, Ferdinand VII following his restoration to the throne and, in his years in exile, Goya’s friends, family and the intellectuals he found in Bordeaux.

In his portraits, Goya aims – and succeeds with remarkable effect – in finding the real person behind the position, exposing their personalities and inner psyches to the world. He offsets the accepted portrait tradition with informality and humanity. He is unafraid of showing his subjects as they are and as he sees them. Queen María Luisa of Spain, a famed beauty in her youth, suffered from a hard life with more than 20 pregnancies and the loss of her teeth. Where other artists tried to disguise this by hiding her features behind classical ideals, Goya – with the exception of filling out her sunken, toothless cheeks – painted her truly, but kindly, emphasising the long arms of which she was so proud. The result is sympathetic and fair. María Luisa must have been happy with the results as she sat for Goya many times.

Where Goya was less keen on his subject, he continued to use this unstinting devotion to veracity as his weapon. As the curator, Xavier Bray, demonstrated, Goya’s state portraiture ticked all the boxes: clothing, medals, sashes and symbols of state and power are present and gloriously painted but, under his uncompromising hand, his opinions of his subjects subvert the pomp. Ferdinand VII, unpopular then as he is now, is inelegant, with disproportionately large and clumsy hands; the pose suggests a lack of appreciation for the king.

Alongside this grand portraiture, his dearest friends are portrayed with tenderness and love, but still with the veracity of his grander portraits: his friends’ flaws are loved as much as they are and are not disguised. Martín Zapater, who Goya called his ‘soulmate’, has a nose which seems to pierce through the canvas.

This new exhibition at the National Gallery in London is arranged both chronologically and thematically, reflecting the stages of his career. At each stage a self portrait is included, showing how his perception of himself, and how he chose to market himself, developed – and he did market himself: early portraits showed his calling card, painted prominently into the foreground as he strove towards his goal of becoming portraitist of the aristocracy.

The culmination of the exhibition comes with his Self Portrait with Doctor Arrieta (1820), commemorating the moment when the doctor, Arrieta, saved his life. In the background loom shadowy figures, possibly gathering around his deathbed to give the last rites, but also foreshadowing the darkness of the Black Paintings. Almost immediately after this, Goya embarked on his wall paintings. The Black Paintings, his witches and monsters, show his own psyche and inner turmoil. These portraits show his empathy with the inner lives of others.
This, the first major Goya exhibition in London since 1991, is a great achievement, bringing together works from across the world, many which have never been loaned out before or even on display before, and some which are still held by the families of those who commissioned and sat for them.

As the first rooms show, Goya’s early ability was perhaps not a match for his ambition, but that soon changed. What is presented here is a collection of astounding portraiture that gives insight, not just into the mind and talent of a great artist, but into the personalities, egos and pretentions – the real people – at the centre of a pivotal era in Spain’s history.

Adapted from historytoday.

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Jack Westin
MCAT CARS Instructor.
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23 Comments


  1. Goya = painted portraits (CW) –> inner side (Queen Maria) + his opinions came out (Xavier)

    Reply

  2. Goya exposes personalities in his work + accurate

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  3. Goya = celebrated portraitist = demonstrated personalities and show his opinions in his works + not disguised
    ex. Queen = significant as his works give us insight to himself as well as key people in Spain history
    +ve tone

    Reply

  4. As a portraitist, Goya created portrayed inner and real side of his subjects

    Reply

  5. Goya = great painter = expose personalities of the real people in Spain history

    Reply

  6. MI: Goya exposed peoples’ flaws in paintings + is empathetic

    Reply

  7. MIP: Goya = dark portraits = past spain ++ society ; reflect ppl = inner psyche + = real; goya = successful portraitist

    Reply

  8. MIP: Goya painted people realistically; tone = neutral

    Reply

  9. Goya = great portraitist = showing real personalities of his subjects. New Goya’s exhibition = great.

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  10. MIP: Goya – dark art/painted realities

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  11. Goya = portraitist = exposed reality of subjects; tone= neutral

    Reply

  12. Goya’s work = reality = empathy

    Reply

  13. Goya’s work = dark + real + astounding, author = positive

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  14. Goya as portraitist= truthful
    Goya changes to dark work later
    author= +

    Reply

  15. Goya = exposes people for who they are while showing empathy towards those he likes.

    Reply

  16. G = portraitist + captured social movement

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  17. MIP: celebrated portraitists; uses honest to demonstrate opinion

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  18. pre dark Goya portraits= candid+show true personality which worked in favor to loved ones and disfavor to enemies.

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  19. Goya’s portraits reflect reality and personality

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  20. Goya= good portraitist -> dark wall paintings
    portraits= truth, not disguised+ affected by personal opinions

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  21. Goya was an artist who initially was a portraitist before he was known for his dark art work. What is prominent about his portraits was that he drew his subjects as they were, with no filter. His portraits resembled their actual qualities, and he did not try to hide their imperfections. They were honest portraits, which really captured the true images of people during a time in Spain going such social change. Later, Goya changed his work into a dark theme, where his paintings were made up of shadowy figures and nightmares. The passage concludes on how his works are now shown to the public in a museum, with famous works and art work that has yet to be seen.

    Reply

  22. Goya=celebrated portraitist of his time. (CW)
    Goya portraits = real/uncompromising/showing anything as it is.
    London exhibition = great achievement to portray his work.

    Reply

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