Goya's Graphic Imagination at The Met

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday March 4, 2021

Francisco Goya (1746–1828), who served as court painter to a king he despised, was an artist for whom drawing was the equivalent of breathing. He worked at a time when Spain was locked in deadly combat with the armies of three countries, and bands of roving guerrillas, in the Peninsular War of 1807-14. His prolific activity as a draftsman and printmaker is spectacular, if known mainly to scholars; during his long career he produced about 900 drawings and 300 prints, including etchings, aquatints, and lithographs. Above: “A Way of Flying,” from the “Disparates” series, not published during Goya’s lifetime. He produced his rich blacks and grays through the aquatint process, which involves coating the printing plate with powdered resin. Francisco de Goya y Lucientes and The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Goya's Graphic Imagination, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, explores how the artist's drawings and prints communicated his complex ideas, and responded to the turbulent social and political changes occurring in the society he inhabited. The exhibition features approximately 100 works, mainly from The Met collection, which holds complete sets of both "The Disasters of War" and "The Caprichos."

Following an illness that nearly killed him and left him deaf, Goya focused on drawing in sketchbooks, which he called “journal albums.” In these, he recorded his thoughts along with drawings through which he explored the horrors of war, societal inequities, human follies, the battle of the sexes and, towards the end of his life, the bullfight as an allegory for a country subsumed by fear and corruption. “The Disasters of War” — his 82-print horror show of the Napoleonic occupation, said to be the greatest antiwar art ever made — remained unpublished until three decades after his death.

From the wall text: Goya is regarded as a remarkable portrait painter with the rare ability to move beyond physical appearances to capture the essence of a sitter. During his long career he produced a number of self-portraits of which, this is one of the most powerful. Goya looks directly at the viewer with mesmerizing intensity. Yet the portrait seems to be somewhat introspective, a close examination of himself, conveying emotional clarity and precision. Between October 1792 and February 1793 Goya suffered a serious illness which left him profoundly deaf for the rest of his life. Deprived of his hearing, the interior world that Goya must have inhabited is well expressed in this portrait, where the intensity of his thoughts seem manifest in his gaze….The purpose of the drawing is not known. It might have been made purely through self-reflection and his desire to capture his physical likeness reflecting his psychological state, or possibly as a sheet to give to a friend or even, as an idea to later develop into a print.

Although Spain regained its independence, there was a cost that Goya could not absorb. The despotic King Ferdinand VII returned as absolute monarch, installing a brutal police state that unleashed a campaign of censorship and arrests. Goya left the Bourbon court in 1824 and voluntarily exiled himself to France, where he completed his last album. Made in his final years, these drawings of street performers and acrobats express, with wit and empathy, his view that beyond the horrors of the moment lies the promise of a better future. 

Goya's Graphic Imagination continues at The Metropolitan Museum of Art through May 3; 1000 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY. Info The catalogue, published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, is available to purchase from The Met Store. Info Note: To maintain physical distancing within the exhibition space, entry to Goya's Graphic Imagination may be closed to visitors arriving toward the end of the day. Please plan your visit accordingly here.

Below, Left: “The sleep of reason produces monsters” (1799), the best known sheet in the “Caprichos.” Francisco de Goya y Lucientes and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Right: Goya’s original ink drawing for “The sleep of reason produces monsters” (1797) reveals the artist’s face above the sleeping young man. Francisco de Goya y Lucientes and Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Public Programs: The Museum will offer virtual programs in conjunction with the exhibition. A free, three-day virtual workshop, titled "The Art of Social and Political Movements," will invite middle and high school students to create drawings inspired by Goya's artworks and themes (February 16–18, 1–3 p.m. daily; Free with advance registration). Adult and university groups can purchase an online tour led by a Museum guide, available in English and Spanish (Reservations available Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with limited appointments available on weekends; Contact at least two weeks in advance to request an appointment.)

The exhibition is featured on The Met website as well as on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #GoyaGraphics. A video tour will also be available online. 

Note from the Home Office

The American Illustration 40 CFE is Open! 2020: What Did You See? Deadline Extended: March 12, 2021. Enter here

The Jury: Gail Anderson, Jury Chair, Chair, BFA Design and BFA Advertising SVA. Antonio Alcalá, Art Director, Studio A / Art Director, USPS Stamp Development. Bashan Aquart, Executive Creative Director, AKA NYC. Lynne Carty, Art Director, Wall Street Journal. Debora Cheyenne Cruchon, Art Director, BUCK. Bobby C. Martin Jr., co-Founder, Champions Design. Neeta Patel, Designer, The New Yorker. Chris Rukan, Opinions Design Director, The Washington Post. Jackie Seow, VP, Executive Director of Art, Trade Division, Simon & Schuster. Faith Stafford, Senior Art Director, Entertainment Weekly. More

Note from my desk at the Home Office

Please join me for a six-week immersion in The Interaction of Watercolor. If trying to master transparent watercolor has left you gasping for air, this course is for you! Using just seven tubes of paint, you will discover the fun of fearlessly allowing the rogue nature of watercolor to work for you. Offered by Sculptors Alliance to all artists, all over the world, on Zoom. Info Info PRinterview