Rarely displayed paintings by Goya on view at Fondation Beyeler

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Rarely displayed paintings by Goya on view at Fondation Beyeler
Francisco de Goya, La maja vestida, 1800-1807. Oil on canvas, 95 x 190 cm Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid © Photographic Archive. Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid.

BASEL.- 275 years after his birth, the Fondation Beyeler presents one of the most significant exhibitions ever devoted to Francisco de Goya – one of modern art’s major trailblazers. For the first time, rarely displayed paintings from Spanish private collections will be shown alongside key works from distinguished European and American museums and private collections. The exhibition brings together around 70 paintings and more than 100 masterful drawings and prints. Today as during the artist’s lifetime, Goya’s works present viewers with a unique sensory and intellectual experience. For the past two centuries, his complex and ambiguous oeuvre has acted as a beacon and a landmark for many artists. The exhibition is organised by the Fondation Beyeler in collaboration with the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid.

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746–1828) occupies a paradoxical position in European art history as one of the last great court painters and a forerunner of the figure of the modern artist. In order to convey the uniqueness of Goya’s work, which spans a period ranging from Late Rococo to Romanticism, and do justice to the formal and thematic wealth of his painted, drawn and printed oeuvre, the exhibition presents the full spectrum of genres and recurring motifs. Arranged chronologically, it features large-scale stately paintings as well as sketchbook pages, focussing on Goya’s late work.

The exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler presents both the established court painter and the inventor of enigmatic and disturbing pictorial worlds, his religious and his secular images, his depictions of Christ and of witches, portraits and history paintings, still lifes and genre scenes. Next to paintings commissioned by the royal family, the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, the show features works created by Goya within a selfconquered space of artistic freedom, among them cabinet paintings often intended only for highly private display. With rebellious resolve, Goya was one of the first artists in the history of European art to push back against the rules and dogmas that constrained artistic creation, instead making a stand for artists’ impulse and inventiveness (“capricho” and “invención”). Highlights of the exhibition include the portrait of the Duchess of Alba (1795) and the iconic Clothed Maja (La maja vestida, 1800–1807), as well as the rarely displayed Maja and Celestina on a Balcony and Majas on a Balcony (1808–1812), the latter two on loan from European private collections.

The exhibition will further feature small-format genre scenes, held for the most part in Spanish private collections and hitherto only rarely shown outside Spain. In these paintings – as in his drawings and prints – Goya gave free rein to his innermost inspiration. For the first time since their only display to date at the Museo Nacional del Prado, the Fondation Beyeler will thus show the full series of eight remaining history and genre pictures from the Madrid collection of the Marqués de la Romana. They will be joined by the four celebrated, rarely loaned panels with genre scenes from the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid.

In his genre scenes and history paintings, Goya depicts events from everyday life in Spain around 1800 – socially, politically and religiously troubled times. Recurring settings include markets and bullrings, prisons and ecclesiastical institutions, lunatic asylums and the courts of the Inquisition. Depictions of witches are another key motif, used by Goya to expose the superstition of his time. Next to a group of etchings from The Disasters of War (Los desastres de la guerra, 1811–1814), the exhibition will also feature a selection of prints from the 1799 Caprichos series, among them the celebrated plate no. 43, programmatically titled The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, which displays Goya’s resigned and melancholy realisation that neither reason nor irony and sarcasm can fight off irrationality. Goya’s enigmatic and unfathomable pictorial worlds have been held in high regard ever since the age of early 19th-century French Romanticism. Among modern artists, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, Francis Bacon and the Surrealists viewed Goya as a kindred spirit. And he remains a major reference for many contemporary artists, among them Marlene Dumas and Philippe Parreno.

Commissioned by the Fondation Beyeler, renowned French artist Philippe Parreno (*1964) has created a film based on Goya’s iconic Black Paintings series (Pinturas negras, 1819–1824), which will premiere at the exhibition. The 14 murals were originally painted in Goya’s residence on the outskirts of Madrid and were most likely not intended for public viewing. Now in the collection of the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, the paintings are so fragile that they cannot leave the museum.

For the first time, seldom seen paintings from Spanish private collections, some of which have not changed hands since the artist’s lifetime, are shown alongside key works from the most prestigious European and American museums and private collections. Works will be on loan from major museums such as the Museo Nacional del Prado, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Fundación Lázaro Galdiano and the Fundación Casa de Alba, all in Madrid, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery in London, the Gallerie degli Uffizi in Florence, the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, the Sammlung Oskar Reinhart “Am Römerholz” in Winterthur, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

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