Nearly two hundred years after his death, Francisco de Goya continues to exercise a universal attraction that very few others in the history of art have equalled. Not only is Goya enveloped in the greatness of his art and his genius, he is also shrouded in mystery and popular legend in a way that makes him doubly attractive and accessible. Now, almost thirty-five years after the last major exhibition devoted to the Spanish master in Barcelona, Goya. Lights and Shadows brings a large selection of great works the collection of El Prado National Museum, the most important in the world. The show features nearly one hundred pieces oils, drawings, prints and letters in a chronological journey through the main periods in the career of this Aragón-born artist. From the early years, in which Goyas realism contrasted with the over-refined Rococo style favoured by his contemporaries, to the intimate works he produced towards the end of his life in Bordeaux, not forgetting the drama of the Peninsular War, which marked a turning-point in his artistic development. The exhibition is the fruit of a cooperation agreement signed between la Caixa Foundation and the Prado National Museum 2011 under which the Catalan organisation became a Benefactor of the museum. Under the terms of the agreement, three more joint exhibitions will be organised in the coming years.
Goya. Lights and Shadows is the first show planned as part of the joint exhibition programme established by la Caixa Foundation and the Prado National Museum, the result of an agreement made between the two institutions in July 2011, under which la Caixa becomes a Benefactor of the Spanish art gallery.
Under the agreement, la Caixa Foundation undertakes to finance the organisation and production of four exhibitions featuring works from the Prado in order to raise awareness of the collections outside the museum itself. These shows will be presented both at CaixaForum
centres and at other galleries in Spain as part of the Foundations travelling exhibition programme.
The agreement serves to further cement relations already based on a long-standing partnership between the two institutions. Since 2009, for instance, the joint educational programme la Caixa Prado Museum. The Art of Educating has sought to introduce young people to the pleasure of discovering artworks.
This ambitious partnership agreement is the result of a policy pursued by la Caixa Foundation to establish strategic alliances with leading cultural centres, such as the Prado Itself, the Louvre Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona.
The most complete retrospective devoted to Goya in Barcelona for three decades
The inauguration of Goya. Lights and Shadows marks the culminating point in celebrations for the tenth anniversary of CaixaForum, la Caixa Foundations social and cultural centre in Barcelona, one month after the major retrospective devoted to Delacroix opened. Through this initiative, CaixaForum invites the public to discover and associate these two great artists, undeniably precursors of modernity and whose respective careers also shared various points in common.
By staging this exhibition, the first of its kind for nearly thirty-five years, la Caixa Foundation also seeks to give Barcelona audiences the chance to enjoy a large selection of Goyas most outstanding works in the Prado collection, the most important in the world.
To complement the exhibition, la Caixa Foundation has organised a full programme of parallel activities. These include a lecture season entitled Goya-Delacroix, the revolution of modern art, in which works by the two artists are used to illustrate their essential contribution to shaping modernity. Moreover, as an extraordinary measure, CaixaForum Barcelona opening times will be extended whilst both exhibitions are on show to the public. As a result, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from March 15 to May 20 the centre will be open until 10 pm.
Finally, to mark the exhibition, a catalogue has been published. Edited by the curators, Manuela B. Mena and José Manuel Matilla, the 336-page book contains major articles by each. These are: Goya: painter of brilliant and magical harmony, by Mena; and Seen and imagined. Keys for understanding Goyas drawings and prints, by Matilla. The catalogue is completed by full details on all the works and introductory texts describing the fifteen exhibition sections.
Nearly hundred works by the Spanish master
The show, which features 96 works 27 oils, 44 drawings, 23 prints and 2 letters and includes such outstanding works as The Dressed Maja, The Parasol, The Witches Flight and I am still learning, brings to Catalonia, for the first time in thirty five years, a large and exquisite selection of works by Goya from the Prado Museum.
The wealth of the collections devoted to Goya, which form almost a monographic museum within the Prado itself, enable us to stage an exhibition that is both highly representative and full of intensity. Through a chronological approach, the exhibition presents all Goyas different facets as an artist as well as the main periods in his career: from the early years, when his realism was contrasted with the over-refined Rococo style favoured by his contemporaries, to his most personal work, produced in Bordeaux during his final years, not forgetting the drama of the war with France, which marked a turning-point in his trajectory.
The exhibition is organised into fifteen sections. These independent spaces present brief visual narratives that explore many of the major themes that concerned Goya, as well as reflecting social circumstances during his life-time, in which the protagonists include kings and the wealthy, intellectuals and the artists own friends.
1. Here I am. Self-portraits
The exhibition begins by examining his self-portraits, for Goya is amongst very few in the history of western painting who have used their own image in this case, constantly, until his death not only as a symbol of the artists independence, but also as a form of psychological analysis and the manifestation of ideas. For example, the letter from Goya to his friend Martín Zapater, in which he includes a caricature of himself with jutting lower lip, a rather self-confident gesture that also illustrates his satiric, humorous spirit.
2. Invention and execution. Social critique in the cartoons for tapestries
The next section features seven cartoons for tapestries on popular themes and scenes from contemporary life, designed to decorate the princes dining room at El Pardo Palace. These works, which Goya produced for the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Bárbara, include, amongst others, The Parasol, a composition that represents an absolutely new development in Spanish decorative art, eschewing the picturesque to depict scenes imbued with social critique, an element that would be present throughout Goyas artistic career.
3. Lying and inconstancy. The image of women from the Sanlúcar Album to the reserved cabinet
The third section focuses on the image of women in both Goyas painting and his albums of drawings and engravings. Amongst these surprising, modern drawings is Young Woman Sweeping, in which the female sex becomes a new and absolute protagonist. This section also features four canvases, including The Straw Manikin and The Dressed Maja, one of the majas in which Goya explores erotic provocation through his paintings for the reserved cabinet.
4. Caricature, dream and fantasy. Freedom and self-censorship in the creation of Los Caprichos
Next comes a section that showcases four drawings and three prints from Los Caprichos. Goya created this series at a decisive moment in his life, after losing his hearing due to the series illness he suffered in 1793. His reaction was to throw his energy into drawing and engraving, producing works imbued with critical intent and denouncement of societys vices and abuses.
5. Las Asnerías. Satire on human behaviour in Los Caprichos
Section Five features a selection of three prints and two drawings from Las Asnerías, which form part of Los Caprichos. In them, Goya depicts human beings in the form of asses, animals that symbolise ignorance, humanising the animals and imbuing their appearance with critical meaning.
6. Infernal company. Witchcraft and unreason in Los Caprichos
Here we find three prints and a drawing, also from Los Caprichos. In this case, however, aligning himself with the intellectuals of the time, Goya uses powerful scenes featuring witches to denounce irrationality and superstition. The section also features a small but exquisite canvas: The Witches' Flight (1797).
7. From the king and queen down. The portrait as psychological study
In the seventh section, we can admire eight oil paintings that illustrate Goyas work as a portrait artist, revealing the way in which he captured the personality of his subjects. Besides bringing him money and fame, the portraits also gave him the opportunity, as Velázquez had before him, to study and paint the different human characters as found in a wide range of men and women from different social classes. The works in this section include Don Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos (1798) and Charles IV, in red (1789).
8. Fatal consequences. The tragic gaze
Here we find drawings and engravings from the Disasters of War series, which Goya produced as an extraordinarily critical and innovative reflection on the events that took place during the Peninsular War (1810-14). Death is the indisputable protagonist of the works in this section, which also includes the painting Dead Birds (1806).
9. The fair of misfortunes. The critical vision in La Tauromaquia
The ninth space contains four drawings, two engravings and one canvas, Fight with a Young Bull (1779-80), all of which reflect Goyas critical gaze in La Tauromaquia. Despite its formal and technical complexity, this third series of prints was a commercial failure, perhaps because, in them, the artist ignores the more picturesque aspects of bullfighting to focus on its violence and tragic nature.
10. Nightmares. Madness and the irrational in the Album C drawings
In this tenth section, viewers will find three drawings from Album C, produced during and after the Peninsular War. These works superbly exemplify the complex nature of Goyas art and depict, as if they were dreams, burlesque scenes featuring grotesque beings. In them, moreover, the artist seems to hold up to mirror to the Spain of his time.
11. Devotion and damnation. Images of religious feeling and critique
Section Eleven enables us to discover Goyas facet as a religious artist. Works like Saints Justa and Rufina (1817) and Saint John the Baptist as a Child in the Desert (Ca. 1810) demonstrate that, contrary to what was previously thought, this type of painting formed an essential part of his production. The section also features drawings from Album C, reflecting Goyas critical view of the religious dogmatism embodied by the Inquisition.
12. Light in the dark. Visions of a world that has lost all reason
Section Twelve contains drawings and prints from the series known as The Follies (1816-19), a faithful reflection of the historic and personal context that surrounded Goya at the end of the Peninsular War. Dominated by the absolute power of his imagination, like the Black Paintings they provide the first manifestations of Goyas truly modern character.
13. Grotesque fables. Human follies and animal dreams in Album G of Bordeaux
This section features five drawings from Bordeaux Album G, produced between 1824 and 1828. In them, abandoning the ink wash technique that he had employed previously, the artist, now in his eighties, introduces a technical novelty; the use of the lithograph pencil. We can appreciate Goyas use of this technique in the drawing The Butterfly Bull, which the Prado Museum acquired in 2007.
14. Amusement and violence. Images of the human condition in Album H of Bordeaux
The penultimate section in the exhibition presents five drawings from Album H, the second of the albums Goya produced in Bordeaux. In them, the artist combines views of everyday life in the streets of the French town with allegories on the human condition. The latter drawings reveal his technical development, as his stroke is lighter, sketchier, and his technique slightly abstract. Once more, his themes revolve around forms of popular entertainment, whilst his characters the excluded confirm that, despite progress, the same people are always excluded from the feast.
15. I am still learning
This last section sees Goya in his final years in Bordeaux, as reflected in his images of old age. The first work we come to is the Self-Portrait of 1815, whilst other interesting pieces include the drawing I am still learning (1824-28) and a letter to Joaquín María Ferrer, which Goya wrote from Bordeaux at the age of 78 and in which he insists on his eagerness to continue evolving as an artist.