Robert Hughes on “The Shock of the New”, 1979- prime Australian manhood, an intellectual with a sportsman’s force and drive. Beautiful. Twenty three years later, he did a programme on Goya. He had had an accident, and walked around with a stick or crutch. Still, beautiful. “Goya could get more pathos into that dog than Rubens could in a whole crucifixion”- trenchant, take no prisoners criticism. “The combination of fury and control [in the Black paintings] announces the genius.” So, this is part cribbed from him. How did Goya change from painting pictures like the one above, to the one below?
Consider that group in the foreground.
A couple embraces on the right. Two men in tricorn hats, to the left of them, have a darker look than the happy crowds; and that is the drama and darkness in the painting. Happy people, nice people having a nice time. The women are smiling and pretty, the men are relaxed. I love the detail in the painting, the work on each of these tiny figures. This was in 1788, when Goya was 42.
Around 1792, Goya had a serious illness, blinding him temporarily, deafening him and leaving him with tinnitus.
Two bandits cover their faces. A lunatic screams. People huddle together staring out in terror at something we do not see. Terror, or exhausted resignation, or desperate anger. Against the darkness, white on shirts, neckerchiefs and pallid skin stands out.
A comment which I read thirty years ago from Alasdair Gray, Glasgow artist and novelist, lives with me: an artist can only paint a facial expression which his own face can wear. These people are part of the artist. They are real, living people because he knows them. They move me, because they are in me, too. So how was he able to pain that Pilgrimage? Because he knew the people, they were in him, and his own experiences introduced them to him.
Aged 80, in exile in France, he wrote, “I am still learning”.