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Goya Witness of His Time

Engravings And Paintings

20 April - 29 July 2012

Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), known as one of the most unique artists of European painting and a pioneer of modern painting, was introduced to the Turkish audience for the first time with four series’ of engravings along with a selection of oil paintings, at the Pera Museum in 2012.

Curated by Marisa Oropesa, the exhibition consisted of works from Spain and Italy’s leading museums and private collections. As one of the best narrators of darkness, the exhibition united Goya’s various oil paintings and engraving series -Caprichos, Disasters of War, Tauromaquia, Proverbs or Follies- that bear witness to a turbulent period in Spain and Europe. The works in the exhibition, besides his career as a court painter and portraitist, explored Goya’s extraordinary imagination, along with his reflections of the social circumstances of the era, from a critical perspective.  The exhibtion sought to shed light upon Goya’s extraordinary imagination with his realistic and at times frigthening style that makes him one of the best narrators of darkness separating him from his contemporaries, as his art transcends time, influencing 20th century modernism.


“Goya is always a great artist and often a terrifying artist… adding to the Spanish satirical spirit, fundamentally joyful and humorous, as it was in the time of Cervantes, something much more modern, a quality that is highly appreciated in modern times, as is love for the indefinable, a terrifying sense of nature, of human features that have acquired animal characteristics…”

Charles Baudelaire, Curiosités Esthetiques (1868)

Francisco de Goya was born on March 30th, 1746 in Zaragoza as the fourth child of a couple formed by the gilder José Goya and Gracia Lucientes. Goya first began his schooling in the Escuelas Pías, where he coincided with his best friend Martín Zapater. After he attended the school of the painter José Luzán, where he learned the essence of Aragonese painting.

In 1775, Goya moved to Madrid, summoned by the court painter Antonio Rafael Mengs, possibly at the request of his brother-in-law Francisco Bayeu, to work as painter of models in the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Bárbara. In 1786, he was appointed royal painter and after the crowning of Charles IV on 1789, Goya became court painter. In 1799, he was appointed as the first court painter.

This appointment involved painting portraits of the monarchs. While the influence of Velázquez, whom Goya admired, is highly apparent in Goya’s first paintings; in later works, his expression was shifting to a more natural, vivid and a personal narrative. The figures he depicted, at times satirizing, were without any sign of idealization and their personal features and characteristics were reflected in to the portraits.

Goya’s first print series was a collection of copies of paintings by Italians and Velázquez in 1778.

He published his first series called the Caprichos in 1799. After this series, which is a satire of late 18th century Spanish society, especially the nobility and clergy; Goya was commissioned by General Palafox to travel to Zaragoza to depict the state of the city of Zaragoza after the siege, where he began to prepare his second series Disasters of War.

At the age of 70, Goya made the series of engravings titled Tauromaquia (1815-1816). At the time, he was in dire economic straits, in addition on May 5th 1814 prior censorship of the prints had been reinstated and the Inquisition had been re-established. From this point of view, the bullfighting, to which Goya had been very fond of ever since he was young, seemed the most appropriate subject for a series of engravings.

In the series called Follies prepared by Goya between the years of 1815-1824, the grotesque characters and the incomprehensible shapes of the devils give the work a ghostly aspect and are a total break away from logic. This series is perceived as the precursor of surrealism that wouldn’t appear after a century later.




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Goya Witness of His Time
Engravings and Paintings

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