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Goya, the visionary painter of human nature, a grotesque satirical existentialism

By Béa Aaronson

The last of the Old Masters and the first of the Moderns, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, the proud Spaniard, the revolutionary painter, was born in Fuendetodos in 1746 during the frenzy of the Enlightenment, and lived during the revolutionary fervor of the Romantic Era. He died in exile in Bordeaux in 1828. During his life, he created two very different bodies of work. As a court painter, he captured the obsolete power of a waning nobility, the arrogant beauty of young women, the glory of Catholicism — although he did depict the frightening insanity of the Spanish Inquisition— and also created numerous cartoons of tapestries to adorn the cold bare walls of the palaces. But Goya the visionary projected in his paintings, drawings, etchings, aquatints and lithographs, the desperate spiritual quest of the West.

“Goya, The Visionary Painter of Human Nature, a Grotesque Satirical Existentialism”
Wed, Mar 20, 4:30pm
La Ostra Roja
A Casa Verde annex
San Jorge 45 (off Refugio)
Please, make your reservations early

The credible monstrosities of his “Caprichos” and “Disparates,” the ferocious lightness of his “Tauromaquia,” the grotesque reality of his “Disasters of the War,” the ominous despairing madness of his Black Paintings, all project the primeval chaos of a decadent humanity eaten up by arrogance and greed. Goya denounced a bestial, grimacing, war-mongering humanity in all its ugliness and lecherous moral degradation. Even his early portraits of the nobility reveal a discordance, which destabilizes order and mocks the aristocracy. As the court painter of Spanish royalty he was able to witness its corrupted power and fragile glory.

As a romantic soul, Goya was attracted to the dark side. He wove a macabre thread throughout his work. His frightening visions only reflect what we know is true but do not dare face. His chiaroscuro is a metaphor of a human inner fight between reason and the irrational. The violent contrast of his light and dark visual drama enhances his perception of a doomed human condition as a grotesque form of existentialism.

From the psychological truth to the caricatural and satirical ridicule of his portraits, from the enticing beauty of his nudes and seemingly peaceful landscapes to the exacerbated violence of his depictions of war, from his strong and vulnerable self-portraits, filled with doubt and interrogation to the nightmarish and phantasmagorical power of his flights of fancy, Goya has played all the variations of the human scale, thrusting a dissonant chord within the arts, heralding German expressionism and the macabre bitter taste of the 20th century.

He freed art from its servile realism and superficial pleasure-giving duty. He freed colors from their merely descriptive role, and brushstrokes from their slick invisibility. He freed composition and subject matter from their incarcerating canonized rules, and it is this liberation that paved the way for modern artistic developments such as Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Expressionism and Surrealism, which are already present in his work.

I invite you to meet Francisco José Goya y Lucientes, man of Aragon, the painter who painted with a knife in his heart, the painter whose images bleed even in black and white, the painter who dared venture and probe the human wound, and by doing so, opened the way to Modern Art.


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