If you track the life of Francisco Goya either by visiting Madrid yourself with our books in hand or just through the armchair tour offered in our forthcoming “Art + Travel Europe: Step into the Lives of Five Famous Painters”, you would be forgiven if walked away thinking that the most famous artist of his time rose to fame on the quality of his painted works alone. Certainly the most widely recognized and respected Goya images these days consist of oils committed to canvas. But it through mass publishing of images portraying the horrors of war and intolerance that Goya became a household name in his lifetime and, perhaps, reached his highest level of sophistication. Indeed, in an ongoing exhibition at Michigan’s Kalamazoo Arts Institute, a look back at one of the Spanish artist’s darkest works shows that the best Goyas may not be bordered by frames, but rather bound in books.
Long past his salad days in the court of Charles, Goya was an aging man by the time he began “Los Disparates” in 1815. Tired, near deaf, and deeply effected by his persecution at the hands of the Inquisition some years earlier, the artist created a series of nightmarish prints for a book, nominally focused on biblical proverbs, but clearly more critical of authority both political and religious than his past efforts. Though never published in its entirety during Goya’s lifetime, “Los Disparates”, with its almost Blakean imagery, represents a move toward pure emotion, stressing mood and mysticism over historical or liturgical accuracy. Placing them alongside the similarly chilling prints from Federico Castellon’s 1969 illustrated edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Mask of Red Death”, Goya’s prints are removed from their historical context (the wars and abuses of his time) and revealed as haunting, universally relevant encounters with death, desire, and fear. Even though he’s remembered best for his colorful canvases, in this display of “Los Disparates”, we’re reminded that Goya’s most personal and thematically challenging works were not to be hung in a royal court or stately private manse, but created for the artist’s favorite client, the reading public.
To journey further into Goya’s dark vision, pre-order a copy of our Art + Travel Europe: Step into the Lives of Five Famous Painters”.
“Goya and Castellon Glimpsed ‘Fear and Folly’: KIA Draws on Collection for New Exhibition”
“Fear and Folly: Prints of Francisco Goya and Federico Castellon”
Now through May 23, 2010
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
314 South Park Street
Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S.A.
Top—”Fearful Folly” from “Los Disparates”, Francisco Goya, 1816 – 1823, courtesy of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.
Middle: Illustrations from “The Mask of the Red Death. A Fantasy by Edgar A. Poe with Sixteen Lithographs by Federico Castellon,” Federico Castellon, 1969, courtesy of Aquarius Press and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.
Bottom: “Where There’s a Will There’s A Way” from “Los Disparates”, Goya, 1816 – 1823, courtesy of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.
Home » Blog » Books of Death: Goya’s “Los Disparates” Meets “The Mask of the Red Death” in Kalamazoo