Goya's Black Paintings: A journey into darkness

October 31, 2010


Inspired by this Halloween flavoured post at Alberti's Window, I thought I might contribute my take on some disturbing imagery. The playfulness and fun of Halloween aside, there is something quite dark about Spanish artist Francesco Goya's work.

Often called the 'father of modern art', or perhaps more accurately - the father of angst  in modern art, Goya's images are compelling because we know they are born of the horrors of war. This particular painting, The Witches Sabbath,  is one that is outstandingly nightmarish - depicting a group of witches and the figure of the devil encircling an adolescent.

It is part of what came to be known as Goya's Black Paintings, named for their dark themes and overriding gloomy selection of colour. Gone is the style of the pretty court portraits Goya did earlier in his career. As he aged, he lived an isolated existence at his villa outside Madrid, known as the '"House of the Deaf Man" - describing Goya's affliction (edit: though this was also the name of the home before Goya lived there!)

As Goya aged, his preoccupation with death and madness poured into his work. During his lifetime, most of this was not seen by the public - it was only much later that the Black Paintings themselves were transferred to canvas and exhibited at the Museo Del Prado.

I'd like to present this fabulous clip featuring Andrew Graham-Dixon which includes Goya's birthplace and the Prado exhibit. The way AGD sombrely describes Goya's moving Disasters of War Etchings is particularly fascinating.

This clip is taken from the wonderful series The Art of Spain which aired on BBC Four, tracing Spanish art and architecture from its Moorish origins to Gaudi,  Dali and Picasso.


4 comments:

M said...

Fun post! I've never seen this clip (or heard of this documentary) before! Thanks for posting it. I don't know too much about Goya's "Disasters of War" etchings, so I especially liked watching the first half of the clip.

Are you familiar with his "Los Caprichos" prints? There are some creepy images in there.

Actually, I did a Halloween post on Goya last year that includes some other dark images. Since you may have missed it, here's the link:

http://albertis-window.blogspot.com/2009/10/goya-can-be-creepy.html

Happy Halloween!

H Niyazi said...

Cheers M! The Los Caprichios works are indeed fascinating.

There are some interesting programs about Goya out there - including a decent biographical mini series that was made in the 1980s.

Thanks for posting the link to your previous Halloween post - I had missed that!

Kind Regards
H

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Fascinating! Where else can I learn about these unusual pieces of art except in this awesome blog??

H Niyazi said...

Thanks for the lovely feedback Vicky! Goya is indeed fascinating, if not a bit disconcerting!

H

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