A Group Complaint about Law, Liberty, and Leisure
September 6, 2012 by David Byron
I once heard Phil Leider say of Francisco Goya that he had only ever truly longed for two things: the career of Diego Velázquez and the love of the Duchess of Alba.
Maybe that's so. Continue reading….
September 6, 2012 at 12:12 pm
There was a great dissection of the Charles IV painting in Harper's or the New Yorker a few/several years ago. Note also the insane grandma on the back left.
Whoops, almost 10 years ago!
Ancel De Lambert says
September 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm
I love your artistic pieces, David, never stop.
September 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm
Audrey the Liberal says
September 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm
Saturn Devouring His Children is my favorite picture of all-time.
September 6, 2012 at 5:53 pm
I really enjoyed reading this. After I tuck in my children, I am going to read it again.
September 6, 2012 at 6:05 pm
I have always liked the painting of The Dog by Francisco Goya and not just because its's a dog (and our family likes dogs) or because it is also a great painting but also because it just happens to coordinate with the colors of our home and would look totally awesome over the two story stone fireplace in our living room. Is that too gauche and a completely inappropriate demonstration of the appreciation of fine art? I fear my crude country roots are showing, but it's purdy.
September 7, 2012 at 2:32 am
"The Dog" was next to the door. He reacts to his Master entering the room. When Goya stood in that doorway, "The Dog" completed the self-portrait.
September 7, 2012 at 5:18 am
For whose eyes?
September 7, 2012 at 8:12 am
Wow, you just made an article on my absolute favorite subjects and their contrast. I really appreciate it. I'd never seen how the paintings were arranged in his house before.
I really liked how Goya actually painted his perceptions of people into his work. Velasquez, whom I agree is the greatest thing to art since bread and perhaps the grains that make it, seemed to paint as if it was a picture. Neither style is better, in my opinion, but I appreciate how Goya goes a step further to try and encorporate personality. The fact that he succeeds is even more remarkable.
Wonderful contrast in time and change. Goya is a figure to be pitied for sure. Thank you for this piece.
September 7, 2012 at 8:17 am
Click Las Meninas twice to fully embiggen it (or just click here and then click again), and examine Velázquez's brushstrokes. His technique is quite astonishing.
September 7, 2012 at 8:36 am
It's also HUGE. 318 cm × 276 cm (125.2 in × 108.7 in)
It's one of the most referrenced paintings by other artists.
Have you seen Picasso's conversion of it into cubism? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PabloPicasso_Meninas.jpg
I am frequently astounded that this work isn't so widely known. I have friends who have never even heard of this piece. So I am quite happy to see you give it and Goya special mention here. I am new here so I haven't gotten to see many of your articles on art, but I know I'm looking forward to them now.
September 7, 2012 at 8:44 am
In 1957, honoring the 300th anniversary of the original, Picasso made 58 variations on Las Meninas over a five month period.
September 7, 2012 at 8:50 am
Hah, I've only seen the one!
September 7, 2012 at 8:52 am
This search shows a bunch of them. I think they're all at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona.
September 7, 2012 at 9:20 am
That's a lot to look at. Again, thanks!
September 7, 2012 at 12:08 pm
For the eyes of whatever cast of characters his leadwhite-addled brain happened to be conjuring at the moment…
September 7, 2012 at 1:09 pm
"Mujeres Riendo" is the truly terrible one. What are they laughing at?
And I prefer "Kronos" to "Saturn" – the latter being a Roman cognate of the Greek deity.
September 7, 2012 at 6:26 pm
Thank you for a wonderful comparison of two of my favorite artists. I cover both Velazquez and Goya in my Spanish culture classes, but since I'm not an art expert my explanations have always lacked a certain something. Although I will say this: although the world seems to revolve around the princess in Las Meninas, the artist is right there at the center, along with her. You could say this is just Velazquez the social climber bragging; or you could say it's an expression of the power of art to ennoble subject, spectator, and the artist himself.
September 7, 2012 at 7:00 pm
To second what Gavin mentioned above, I had the good fortune to see Goya's Caprichos prints in San Jose, CA a couple of years ago. What struck me about them was that I could feel the disgust Goya had for the subjects he was criticizing or making fun of. Quite amazing to feel that from a little print.
September 7, 2012 at 7:06 pm
Goya went entertainingly-mad from handling lead-white. Gary Busey went entertainingly-mad from crashing his motorcycle without wearing a helmet. Is there much difference? I abhor extra-aesthetic considerations. Insanity is always bizarre but it usually isn't genius.
Bearman Cartoons says
September 7, 2012 at 10:05 pm
I remember the one art class I took in college we had to pick a master painting and reproduce it in chalk.
Goya was my pick and this was my choice
September 10, 2012 at 5:40 am
At cost to all my sanity, as when one stares at clever abstract pictures that can be viewed as two different things, my head is stuck fast in 'Fight with Cudgels' as it being of two giant spectres fighting over over a rather beautiful landscape. For the life of me I cannot see the quagmire. My brain feels contorted.
September 10, 2012 at 9:28 am
You could say this is just Velazquez the social climber bragging; or you could say it's an expression of the power of art to ennoble subject, spectator, and the artist himself.
Thank you for teaching your students about Spanish artists!
While there's no doubt that Velázquez was socially ambitious, it's not clear that that's the best explanation for how he presents himself here.
Velázquez had been born to lesser nobility, and for most of his life he enjoyed as lofty a position as any painter could hope to achieve. By 1656, when he painted Las Meninas, Velázquez was at the top of his career and the top of his game. By 1660, he was dead.
Velázquez had aspired to be inducted into the Order of Santiago, and this finally occurred in 1659, according to archival documents of that organization.
Oddly, the distinctive red emblem of the Order appears on the painter's chest in Las Meninas:
It's very unlikely that the artist would have marked himself this way in that context if he had not been entitled to do so. Maybe he went back and added the cross once he had been inducted, not long before his death. However, there's an old story attached to this detail, and it feels truthy: it is said that Felipe IV so loved and admired his court painter, Velázquez, that when the latter died, Phil himself, to honor his friend, took up a brush and added to V's humble self-portrait this mark of nobility.
In any event, Velázquez is a marvel of hand, eye, and mind. As much as I admire Las Meninas, his Las Hilanderas is my favorite among his works.
One of these days, if I have time, I'll explain why.
September 10, 2012 at 9:38 am
@Al Re the quagmire, notice how the giants are buried up to their knees in that beautiful landscape.
Whether this motif is original to the painting is disputed, since they were damaged and restored when transferred to canvas in the late 1800s.
There's also a dispute over whether the Quinta del Sordo even had a second story. On this theory, everyone has always been wrong in attributing most of these to Goya; they'd actually be the work of some conspirator aiming to cash in.
Of course, the one advocate of this pet theory, an obscure archivist, bases it on a disputed reading of an ambiguous text, on a tendentious rejection of eyewitness accounts, and on his privileged grasp of what must have been true of urban dwellings near Madrid. Those who dare to question are answered with vitriol and ridicule, rather than logic and cogent argumentation. Needless to say, Wikipedia gives a rather skewed sense of the standing of this theory.
September 10, 2012 at 11:16 am
Good choice on Las Hilanderas. I really like his works that encorporate mythology in his art work. I worked as a blacksmith through college so I am partial to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_in_the_Forge_of_Vulcan
I was introduced to these artists in my Spanish culture class. Goya, Velazquez, El Greco, and Picasso were the artists used for study (Check out the wall painting "Burial of the Count of Orgaz" by El Greco, lots of neat points to study despite me not liking a lot of his other works, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Burial_of_the_Count_of_Orgaz)
I cannot thank my teacher enough for introducing me to these people. Most people don't even recognize that Picasso was Spanish (the answer is typically "French"). Keep up the good work teaching.
September 10, 2012 at 11:18 am
I'll note that Picasso regularly paid homage to many of the Spanish artists, including El Greco.
September 11, 2012 at 3:41 am
@David, indeed, that's why I say 'spectre' since they are only partially 'emerged' from the ground, along with their apparent transparency, I still see only a landscape, no mire! :-S
September 11, 2012 at 9:05 am
From what I learned when studying it, the idea is that both of these guys are sinking in quicksand but can't be bothered to stop clubbing each other to save themselves.
If this is the meaning of the painting then it is incredibly poignant and quite apt to the effect of human nature (especially during Goya's war-torn days). Keep in mind that the time period these were painted in sync up exactly with a civil war/revolt against King Ferdinand VII. The black paintings actually sync with the three year revolt entirely and stop once France invades. (1820-1823, maybe coincidence, maybe not?)
If you look at these paintings in this light, some seem to advocate this point quite strongly. The idea of royality eating its people for fear of them rising up, the brutalities of war on the innocent (Asmodea), and the concept of man killing man when they could be working together (fight with cudgels).
It is all so very bleak.
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