I took a leap of faith this semester by signing up for a class about a single artist, Francisco Goya. Not only had I never heard of Goya, I had also never taken a class about art or one individual. Still, I figured that given my past experience with excellent professors at Berkeley, my instructor would somehow make it interesting—not to mention it was the only class that would fulfill a certain requirement.
The decision to plunge into Los Mundos de Goya turned out to be one of the best of my college career. So far the class is Top 3 material and has imbued me with a fascination for both Goya and the study of art. Some interesting information about Goya:
-Goya was a medical anomaly, living to be 82 in a time when most people didn’t make it to 50. That’s ancient. Imagine living almost twice as long as the people around you. A mysterious illness left him deaf at the age of 47, so he lived almost half his life in silence.
-Goya started out painting commissioned portraits for aristocrats, but became more scandalous after establishing himself as a successful artist. He is said to have painted the first female pubic hairs of Western art in “The Nude Maja” and the first fellatio of Western art in “The Madhouse.” There is evidence that in his famous painting, “Saturn Devouring His Sons,” Saturn originally had an erection. His penis was only subsequently repainted as flaccid to meet social standards.
-Goya was an Enlightened artist and thinker at a time when outside thought was shunned by the Spanish Catholic Church. His book of prints, Los Caprichos, is full of social criticism of everything from avaricious priests, child abuse, superstition, marriage, and 18th century medicine. In this book, Goya pioneered the technique of aquatint in Spain. While prints (made from etchings) previously consisted only of lines, aquatint allowed for the shading of large spaces. Notice the difference between this print
and this print
-In his last years, Goya painted a series of dark paintings directly onto the walls of his house. They were not intended to be shown publicly; in fact he never mentioned them to anyone through letters. They are called his Black Paintings, and were excavated from the walls and into a museum. What I find fascinating is thinking about the psychological condition that might motivate an artist to cover the walls of his own house with dark murals.