Neoclassicism and Romanticism


(Neoclassicism, Romanticism and Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map)





Francisco de Goya

"Life and Work"





Early Years (1746-1773)


Move to Madrid (1774-1783)


Artist to Nobility (1783-1791)


Crisis and a New Start (1792-1798)


The Sleep of Reason (1797-1799)




The Height of Fame (1799-1807)


Times of War (1808-1818)




The "Black Paintings" (1819-1823)




Exile in France (1824-1828)









The "Black Paintings"




Goya's Flying Creatures



There are heads which are so full of highly explosive gas that they
require neither a balloon nor a witch to fly.


Francisco de Goya
A fine teacher!
Capricho No. 68

Bats, owls, witches, with and without brooms, even flying dogs, bulls and strange hybrid beings - such creatures populate Goya's pictures. The whole range of his imaginary world, of both his dreams and nightmares, is bound up in his representation of flight. At the same time as this, the motif of flight reflects the contradictions of his day, the age of reason. Science was constantly making new discoveries; electricity, magnetism, meteorology, and gravity were being researched. The conquest of gravity represented the crowning triumph of reason. This scientific aspect of
flying fascinated Goya, and not only did he portray the first balloon flight in several ways (page 47), he also occupied himself with the idea of independent flight by man. Like Leonardo da Vinci, who also drew designs for fantastical flying devices, Goya drew people with bird-like wings, as in his print A way to fly, m which strange human kites soar through the air. Yet the more man came to believe that he could explain the world through reason, the more Goya distrusted the principle of pure reason. During the course of his life, he came to recognize increasingly that the dark reverse side of reason still existed, that the power of the irrational, the energy of unbridled passions, the power of aggression and fear, were still omnipresent dangers. From time immemorial heaven had been the sphere of the divine, an ethereal region reserved for gods and angels. Goya was well acquainted with the traditional images of heavenly beings; he knew the world of Christian imagery as well as the mythological heaven of the classical gods. Yet for him, flying was, above all, an embodiment of the demonic; and here images of ancient magic practices, in which people and witches fly through the air, played a key role in his imagination. With a few strokes, Goya was able to achieve the illusion of flight in his images, and to convince the viewer that figures are truly flying. Often the symbolism of flying suggests erotic connotations, too, for floating and a weightless levitation are familiar images of sexual pleasure. This interpretation also plays its role in the well-known motif of witches riding their broomsticks. Similarly, the subtitle of one of his Black Paintings, Asmodea, refers to an oriental demon of sexual desire. Nevertheless, here the relationship between image and title remains unclear. On a broad landscape background, two closely linked figures are rushing through the air without wings. One of the figures is looking back, as though they were being pursued, while the other figure is pointing to an enormous rocky outcrop in the background. In the distance a group of horsemen are on their way to an unknown destination; on the right, two riflemen take aim - are they aiming at the two airborne figures or at the riders? The subjective world of Goya's image is beyond interpretation. The fantastical scene depicted by this painting, a work executed without a commission, points toward the world of the 20th century; in Surrealism, too, for instance with Salvador Dali or Max Ernst, a personal language of symbols, set in unreal locations, plays a major role.

Francisco de Goya

Oil on canvas, 123 x 265 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid


Francisco de Goya
Atropos (The Fates)

Oil on plaster mounted on canvas, 123 x 266 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid



Sense and Nonsense



Francisco de Goya
Ridiculous folly
Etching and aquatint 24.5x35 cm

Wrapped in blankets, people perch on a dead branch. Anyone who moves will fall into the bottomless depths below.
In spite of their absurdity, the scene has a realistic effect. There is no firm indication of whether Goya intended a political meaning.
These could be refugees, or people who have lost all contact with their environment.
Others see here a symbol of the immobility of the antiquated social structures of Spain.
Or, quite generally, a symbol of people alienated by the modern world.


The last of Goya's series of prints is also the most enigmatic. He probably worked on them over a fairly long period, completing them about 1824. The prints were known under the title Disparates, which, loosely translated, means examples of nonsense, absurdities; a lot of the inscriptions to the pictures include the word disparate. Goya never published them, though they were undoubtedly designed with an eye to publication. When the first edition was printed from the plates in 1864, the series was given the title Los Proverbios (Proverbs), though no unequivocal equivalent of a proverb was ever identified.
The prints contain more or less absurd, Surrealistic images: bulls flying through the air, an elephant staring motionless at a group of men, people crouching like frozen birds on a branch, a horse catapulting a woman into the air, distorted faces screaming silently, and people fleeing from phantoms. Like the Caprichos, the Disparates could be described as a series of dreams. For, just like nocturnal dreams, they are both strange and familiar. Whoever tries to decipher them is groping in the dark. This enigmatic quality is precisely what endows the series with modernity. These subjects are no longer drawn from the traditional language of artistic images, but from a private world.
In many pictures political references can he surmised, but they are so deeply encoded that nowadays they can no longer be clearly deciphered. To some extent the images reveal human passions, superstition, and blindness. Many images seem no more than the whim of the moment. On some prints, Goya revisits motifs from his earlier works and stretches them to the point of absurdity. So, from the tapestry designs, we have the motif of the dancer or of the women playing with a man-sized straw doll. But the charming images of the young Goya have become coarse caricatures. The Disparates are not exactly amusing prints: the laughter at these absurd images is hollow and accompanied by a slight shiver of horror. The dark, empty background of the Disparates reinforces the observer's question regarding their meaning.

Francisco de Goya
Disparate de bobo
(Blockhead folly)
Etching and aquatint 24.5x35 cm

With a broad grimace, the clumsy blockhead, a traditional Spanish clown, is parading about and playing the castanets as
though taking a demonic pleasure in terrifying the other figure. The latter is taking refuge behind the figure of a
woman who turns out to be a life-size figure of the Virgin Mary.
Goya's criticism of the Church becomes even clearer in a study for this print, where a monk is hiding behind the figure of the Madonna.
Goya sets religious belief and superstition face to face: they are nothing more than phantoms.

Tio Paquete

c. 1820
Oil on canvas, 39,1 x 31,1 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

This image is said to be the portrait of a well-known beggar who always sat in front of a church in Madrid and sang to the guitar.
With his sardonic, featureless laugh the painting matches the dark humor of the Disparates.

Francisco de Goya
El exorcizado


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