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SMK explores how the French artist Édouard Manet was inspired by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya, The same man throws a bull in the ring at Madrid, 1815-16, 245 x 350 cm.

COPENHAGEN.- The exhibition Manet’s Goya. Prints focuses on the visible impact of Francisco Goya (1746 – 1828) on Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883), and on the mutual interest in war, bullfighting, and satire that binds them together.

Each in their own way, Manet and Goya were both bold innovators in art history. Goya was driven by a belief in the ideals of the Enlightenment era. With his art, Manet wanted to present realistic rendition of "la vie moderne". Almost a century separates the two artists, who both worked against the grain of the prevailing art ideals of their own day.

Executions and bullfights
Neither Manet nor Goya flinch away from depicting the truly horrific. This is evident in e.g. the artists’ depictions of cruel executions and keen eye for bullfighting as theatre. Goya and Manet are both fascinated by the forces unleashed in the arena.

Bullfighting as violent theatre
Manet and Goya also have a keen eye for bullfighting as theatre. Bullfighting can be regarded as a kind of violent theatre where courage, the mistreatment of animals, elegant evasions, and buffoonery are all paraded before us. It is a spectacular show, one that incorporates arranged violence and planned death, and it has been staged to titillate our desire for spectacle.

In the bullring the death of the bull is planned and expected, but unexpected deaths may also occur when an unruly animal tears through the staged plans to kill horses and toreadors, or even to run amuck amongst the audience in the seats above.

Such shocks created by violence going beyond the established rules are also part of Goya’s and Manet’s fascination with the forces unleashed – in the bullring and on the picture plan.

The titillation of death
Forces of this kind are not affected by moral considerations, and Goya and Manet seek to capture and convey them in their images. We see the struggle, the thirst for blood, and the deaths as something that may seem meaningless, but which is also strongly enticing. Here, death becomes a visual climax. Or, to put an even more cynical spin on it: something that adds further titillation and entertainment value.

Biting satire
Manet and Goya share a predilection for satire. With their portraits and acerbic caricatures they mercilessly lambasted the high and the low of their own day and age. From old women with vain daughters to carnivalesque figures, prostitutes, and even the president of the French Republic.

General Hothead
One of the satirical highlights of the exhibition is Polichinelle, 1874, by Manet. In this lithograph Manet lambasts the highest-ranking political authority figure in France at the time: the Chief of State and general Patrice Mac-Mahon.

Manet has caricatured the chief of state as ’Pulcinella’ – a ferocious figure from the commedia dell’arte tradition reminiscent of the hotheaded Mr Punch.

Pulcinella is known for always getting into fights and beating his opponents soundly.

Bold, drunk, and divine
In the drawing Manet lets the chief of state parade around like a cross between a comedic figure and a police officer trying to maintain law and order.

Manet asked his friend, the poet Théodore de Banville, to write a few caustic lines about the chief of state for his drawing. Banville wrote a small verse that may be translated as follows:

“Cruel and pink with fire in his eyes.
Pulcinella, he is bold, drunk, and divine!”

The lithograph was soon seized and banned by the authorities.

Great art on paper
Most of the artworks in the exhibition come from the Royal Collection of Graphic Art – the SMK’s collection of art on paper. The Royal Collection of Graphic Art is home to more than 240,000 works. The collection covers a wide range of art, from 15th century art to Modernist works right up to works by the most recent contemporary artists.

The French artist Édouard Manet and the Spanish artist Francisco Goya are both groundbreaking figures in art history. Almost a century separates the two, but they each confronted and challenged pervasive art ideals in their own time.

Francisco Goya (1746 – 1828)
The Spanish artist Francisco Goya remains the most important painter within Spanish Romanticism and is simultaneously regarded as the last of the old masters of the Romantic era and the first of the moderns.

Goya was born in 1746 in a small Spanish town to a family of modest means. He worked as a portrait painter and as court painter to the Spanish court, and in his unofficial work he was a revolutionary, full of visions.

Goya adhered to Enlightenment ideals. He insisted on the rights of each individual and believed that enlightenment and knowledge might prompt better social conditions.

This comes to the fore in Goya’s drawings and prints, which see him employing a distinctive form of realism.

He was the first major artist of his age to depict the evils and cruel deeds of his own time, and several of his most important works constituted social commentaries on the injustices of society.

Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883)
The French artist Édouard Manet is one of the leading figures of art history. He is amongst the first modernist painters to break with the academic tradition of France, and he is regarded as the boldest innovator of his generation.

Manet was born in Paris in 1832 into an affluent family. He trained under a history painter and opened his first studio in 1856.

With his art Manet wanted to present realistic depictions of "la vie moderne", and his daring approach shocked audiences of his day and prompted numerous scandals.

Inspired by the works of the poet Charles Baudelaire, Manet painted his first entirely original work, The Absinthe Drinker, in 1858-59.

With this work he caused quite a furore, offending contemporary sensibilities by allowing a drunken tramp to pose in such a grand format. Depictions of this kind were unacceptable to the established art world, and the work prompted fierce criticism.

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