By Helen Cook / New York / New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art for some time has wanted to plunge into the mind of iconic Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, to whom it is now devoting a detailed exhibit of his sketches, drawings and prints produced over more than six decades and which reveal his personal ideologies and preoccupations.
“The entire idea is to explore the artist’s strategies, how he thinks through prints and through drawings,” the curator of the exhibit, Mark McDonald, told EFE during the presentation of the exposition to the press.
Titled “Goya’s Graphic Imagination,” the collection features 105 pieces of the roughly 900 drawings and more than 300 prints he produced during his artistic career, reflecting specific moments in the turbulent and glorious history of Spain, yet all the while also reflecting the artist’s “concepts of suffering and violence and torture and tension,” as McDonald noted.
“I think he is the most fantastic artist ever… I mean, he is so interesting, so complex and there’s so much to explore,” the Met expert on drawings and prints said of Goya, emphasizing that, in contrast to what one might think, his “main focus is not painting, it’s prints and drawing.”
“He spent so much of his time making albums of drawings, etchings and prints,” said McDonald, who has been working on assembling and preparing the collection for more than three years, and he empasized that these kinds of artistic works reflect the more “personal” side of the revered artist, since “they’re not made for an audience.”
“In fact … not all of the imprint series were actually published within his own lifetime. … And so there’s this sense of privacy, interior life, exploring his personal ideas and concerns. That’s at the heart here,” McDonald said.
Of the 105 pieces on display at the exhibit, which may be seen by the public from Feb. 12 through May 2, 80 are part of the Met’s permanent collection, while the rest have been loaned, including 12 by the Prado Museum in Madrid and eight by private collectors.
The works, which fill three halls on the second floor of the huge museum, are organized in chronological order and review Goya’s career from its beginnings, when in 1775 he began producing sketches for the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Barbara, up to the last lithographs he produced in Burdeos shortly before he died around 1825, a final series known as “The Bulls of Burdeos.”
Between his early and late works, the museum also will put on display examples of the intermediate periods in Goya’s career, including the famous “Los Caprichos” series, as well as pieces he produced at the end of the 18th century and in the first two decades of the 19th century, such as the “Tauromaquia” series and “Los desastres de la guerra,” produced between 1810 and 1815.
Among the works, the Met has placed at the entrance of the exposition a small but detailed self portrait of Goya that he produced in 1796 when he was 50, several years after he went deaf, a work that imparts an extraordinary psychological intensity.
Also holding a privileged position within the exhibit is the “Gigante sentado” (Seated giant), which Goya is believed to have painted between 1814 and 1818 and which has been closely linked to “El Coloso” (The colossus), a piece that symbolizes the 1808-1814 Spanish War of Independence.
The “Gigante sentado,” which depicts a huge figure looking out across a desolate landscape, is believed to symbolize the sense of helplessness and distress in the wake of the conflict.
Despite the fact that these works were produced some 200 years ago, McDonald said that they are images with which the public can continue to identify.
A good number of Goya’s themes are being felt by people today, in our torment, the pain and suffering that we experience during conflicts, McDonald said, and thus – although the Spanish artist is speaking to us from the early 19th century – he is talking about the same problems, the same issues, the same fears and the same tensions that plague mankind today. (February 8, 2021, EFE/EPA/PracticaEspañol)
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