This exhibition in Turkey is a unique occasion to contemplate the artistic essence of Francisco de Goya. It is a tour of the most important aspects of his long artistic career, being an excellent opportunity to view his most important graphic creations in four great series of engravings. Modernity arrived through the paintbrushes of this master from Fuendetodos, thanks to his awareness of his time, of the decadence of a historicist concept through a dramatic vision. The master is a revolutionary who introduces a new concept of art; the artist as a witness of his time. Social vicissitudes become the protagonists of artistic creation and Goya is synonymous with revolution, establishing a before and after in the development of painting and thus making his work an indispensable element in the development of modern art. If academic art represented tradition, Goyas experimentation was the antithesis of that tradition.
Being the first exhibition in the Pera Museum
dedicated to Goya, the graphic work exhibited is completed with paintings from different museums and collections. These oil paintings highlight other aspects of his work as a chronicler of his time. Several portraits such as that of his friend the bullfighter Pedro Romero (?), his childhood friend Martin Zapater or the portrait of his brother Camilo are clear examples of how Goya used this genre to immortalize not only characters of the nobility, as was common in his time, but also personal portraits perpetuating his friends. One must not forget that he was a court painter and thus made numerous portraits of the royal family and here we have two impressive works, not only in their format, but also for their energy, displaying the power of King Charles IV and María Luisa de Parma. Alongside the portraits, series Niños Jugando (Children Playing) and The Maja and the Cloaked Men (La maja y los embozados), that witness customs of the people from another era, enable to get acquinated with the different artistic facets of Goya.
Up to the 18th century, most artists followed the same artistic guidelines. Rarely were masters able to break away from the stereotypes and conventionalisms of their time. Da Vinci, Rembrandt or Velázquez are examples of artists that were able to create new paths in the art of their time and today they are still influential, offering inspiration for artists, as if they were the Muses of Olympus. The Spaniard painter, Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), is one of those artists who awakens from lethargy and tirelessly searches for new modes of expression. The new route he embarks on, which means breaking away from classical conventionalisms, puts him in an exclusive group of artists that can be considered timeless.
The Spaniard painter, Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), is one of those artists who awakens from lethargy and tirelessly searches for new modes of expression. The new route he embarks on, which means breaking away from classical conventionalisms, puts him in an exclusive group of artists that can be considered timeless. Francisco de Goya received academic training that he completed with an obliged trip to Italy, which was common for painters in his time and which he financed on his own. Travelling to different cities such as Venice or Rome, he viewed in situ works by artists such as Rafael, Rubens or Veronese, thus completing his training. These artists were to influence his technique as well as the composition and treatment of light in his creations.
The historic event that was to play a leading part in his career was the Spanish War of Independence of 1808, which had an enormous influence on him, as is depicted fearlessly and in an uncensored manner in his work. This dramatic event, together with the serious illness (suffered years before, in the winter of 1792 while visiting southern Spain, which left him deaf) was the turning point that inspired him to give free rein to his impulses. Affected to the core of his being, the Aragonese master acted as a chronicler of a tragedy and gave a detailed rendering of the horror of war in a series called the Disasters of War (Los Desastres de la Guerra) in a raw and penetrating manner. Only two editions of the series were made during the artists lifetime, he gave one of them to the critic Ceán Bermúdez, entitling it: Fatal Consequences of the Bloody War in Spain with Bonaparte. Up to then, art had been used by governments and absolutist regimes as a means of propaganda, the patronized artist depicted war victories in magnificent, generally large format, paintings where war was understood as power and victory, something positive for nations, until Goya broke this stereotype and dared to show the bitter aspects of war without leaving anything out.
War is no longer just a great historical event, as other artists who only depicted victories as great feats had led the spectator to believe, war now involved fatal consequences and Goya was a witness and faithful narrator. His heart-rending vision of a terrible situation is a precursor of the work of modern war journalists describing the horror of the conflict in their graphic reports. The cruelty of the war was the catalyst that turned him into an artist committed to his cosmic spirit, devoted to art for arts sake and conceiving art as more important that just decoration. Goyas strong personality earned the admiration of his contemporaries in Spain as well as abroad.
Charles Baudelaire was a fervent admirer of the Spanish artist, being acquainted to his engravings in 1828 thanks to the painter Delacroix who showed his work to Victor Hugo. It is known that one of the series of the Caprichos ended up in France, and after contemplating this work, Baudelaire wrote about him in an article published in Le Present (1857), Lartiste (1858) and in the Curiosités Esthetiques (1868) collection:
In Spain, an extraordinary man has opened new horizons for the spirit of the comic
he sometimes gets carried away by violent satire, and sometimes transcends it, presenting an essentially comic vision of life
Goya is always a great artist and often a terrifying artist
adding to the Spanish satirical spirit, fundamentally joyful and humorous, as it was in the time of Cervantes, something much more modern, a quality that is highly appreciated in modern times, as is love for the indefinable, a terrifying sense of nature, of human features that have acquired animal characteristics
it is strange that this anticlerical man has dreamt so often with witches, witches Sabbaths, black magic, children being roasted in an oven and many other things: All the orgies of the dream world, all the exaggerations of hallucinogenic images, and in addition, all those young slender and white Spanish women that the inevitable witches wash and prepare for their secret pacts or for nocturnal prostitution. The witches Sabbath of civilization! Light and darkness, reason and irrationality are confronted in all these grotesque horrors...!
Years later, at the age of seventy, Goya engraved La Tauromaquia (Bullfight) series, at the same time as he was finishing the Disasters of War. This was the third series published and it was made between 1815 and 1816. It is outstanding for its cruelty, depicting the bulls in a raw and real while being at the same time decorative manner. At that time, the artist was once again in a precarious economic situation, in addition, in May 1814 there was a return to prior censorship of prints and the court of the Inquisition had been re-established. Thus he decided to illustrate some chapters of Historic Letter on the Origin and Evolution of Bullfighting in Spain (Carta histórica sobre el Origen y progreso de las corridas de toros en España) (1777), by Nicolás Fernández de Moratín, the father of his friend Leandro. King Ferdinand VII was very fond of bullfighting and Goya took advantage of the Kings interest to create a new series of forty engravings. In addition, Goya was very knowledgeable about bullfighting and according to Leandro Moratín, he even boasted about having fought bulls when he was young.
The last of his great series of engravings was the Follies or the Proverbs (Los Disparates or Los Proverbios), doubtlessly the most mysterious etchings he ever made. Their meaning has been the object of many interpretations; some scholars consider them a product of the imagination while others relate them to the carnival. As well as being difficult to interpret, the prints were not numbered so the specific order of the series is not known. Goya allows us to freely interpret their meaning, the modernity of their language means that these works could even be applicable to current times. The eighteen prints were not revealed until 1864, after the artists death and another four prints were discovered years later, purchased by the painter Eugenio Lucas Velázquez and published in 1877 by the magazine LArt. Neither is the exact date when Goya made the series known, we do know it was after finishing La Tauromaquia and what is most likely is that he could not publish them because he moved to France, leaving Spain governed by King Ferdinand VII.