Goya’s Graphic Imagination
The Metropolitan Museum
From February 12 – May 2nd, 2021
An exhibit of works by Francisco Goya, Goya’s Graphic Imagination, is set to open at The MET Fifth Avenue this coming Friday, February 12th. The premier artist of Spain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Francisco Goya produced roughly 900 drawings and 300 prints throughout his life spanning from 1746 to 1828. Through his graphic work, he expressed his political liberalism, criticism of superstition, and distaste for intellectual oppression in unique and compelling ways.
Comprising of approximately 100 works this show sweeps six decades. Presented in chronological order we are given a clear view of Francisco Goya’s career and his response to the turmoil present in his native Spain- a period marked by the enlightenment, the inquisition, and Spain’s constitutional government.
Early etchings, for instance, include copies of works by painter Diego Velazquez, an artist who was also a patron of the Spanish court. These intimate glances show Goya’s dedication as a disciple of art at the time. In later prints, we see Goya’s development from a mere follower to a substantial contributor to the culture. Pieces like For wagging his tongue in a different way (ca. 1810–11) are marked by an empathy for the victims of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. It is through the cruelty depicted in A Man Breaking Up a Fight (ca. 1812–20) we are made aware Goya’s continued interest in the violence following the Peninsular War.
The apparent honesty and frankness of these works provide prime space for us to reflect on themes such as human folly, superstition, gender, and war. It is through The Met’s nuanced view of Goya we can more easily digest our present. Max Hollein, the Marina Kellen French Director of The Met said, “This exhibition is an opportunity to further understand the critical role of drawings and prints as an outlet for the artist’s fertile imagination, allowing him to explore subjects that preoccupied him throughout his long life. As a social critic and witness to great turbulence, Goya created art that captured the many aspects of what it means to be human amid challenging times. In today’s complex and uncertain world, Goya’s work resonates powerfully.”
Remarkable pieces within Goya’s Graphic Imagination include a number of prints produced solely for Goya’s close circle of friends and fellow artists. At a late age, Goya took up lithography. Mastering this alternative printing process Goya went on to prime examples of the medium such as the Bulls of Bordeaux, produced in 1825 during his exile in France- at the age of seventy-nine. It is an astounding way to view Francisco Goya as a strong, determined individual within the chaotic whole. A man who despite the turmoil and change constantly perfected his craft so he could more eloquently express his point of view.