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Goya - Hayward Gallery
Murillo - Dulwich Picture Gallery
Velazquez 400th anniversary - Seville


I went to the exhibition, Goya, Drawings from his Private Albums at the Hayward Gallery: 13 May 2001. This was a really stunning exhibition not only because it was Goya but also because I could see a glimpse of what was happening during that time in Spain and how very contemporary and parallel it is with today. You can hardly believe that this artist died so long ago. His aspects - wars and religion - are very apt today. "The powerful Church was seen by enlightened opinion as having betrayed its religious mission by keeping poor, uneducated people in a state of ignorance and subservience, while living off their backs. "His series of etchings facts the horror of conflict and a moral stance against violence. The Disaster of War was inspired by Napoleon's invasion of Spain. Goya went from Madrid to see for himself the devastated city of Saragossa that bravely resisted the French siege. The gruesome sights, combined with the famine he also saw in Madrid three years later, may also have produced The Disaster of War. In one powerful etching a mother, clutching her infant behind her back, thrusts a spear into a French soldier's stomach he entitled it, And They Are Like Wild Beasts. It reveals the misery war brings, seeing everyone who suffers in this barbaric campaign. In another etching They Help Themselves dead Frenchmen are shown stripped of their clothes by their ruthless opponents. The print entitled Bury Them, Without a Word, two passers-by hold their breath and pinch their noses to ward off stench of sprawled corpses mouldering below them. In What a Feat! With Dead Men! Goya's sarcastic caption sums up his sense of outrage. In a grotesque piece a group of men and women pray and plead with soldiers about to shoot them entitled One Can't Watch This. There has been a vision of war since we started to live as human beings and because we have to find a reason to go on killing which is why we have created the excuse of religious differences. For instance if you are not of my religion I will hate and try to kill you. Even if the real problem is an argument over land, religious difference will be used as a cover-up.

Goya lived during the Spanish Inquisition; he created the Inquisition Album. . . the inscription titles "they put a gag on her because she talked. And struck her in the face for having Jewish ancestry" he wrote across the woman's costume. False accusations often have a racist bias.

The church in Spain was an instrument of bigotry and superstition. Spanish society was caught up in a searing cycle of violence at its best. The Black Brother Album- crying out will get you nowhere is another title, a drawing of apocalyptic negation. There is another drawing of two cannibalistic men gnawing at each other's faces with an ironic caption, "They are choleric by temperament".

In 1799 Goya published Los Caprichos; it was withdrawn a few days later from circulation. He was aware of the dangers of confronting the Church's vicious displeasure. Roman Catholicism was as repressive at the state and just as lethal. In the new century Goya devoted this album to the Inquisition where he drew the official administered cruelty which reached heights of barbarism. During this period many people were sent to Latin America, people of Jewish ancestry were Christianised, like my mother, people with names like Pereira, Silva, Chaves, all came from the Spanish Inquisition. Picasso observed the Spaniards and said, "are in love with violence and cruelty and long to see blood flow, to run - blood of horses, the blood of bulls, the blood of men. . . "

Most of the 100 drawings in the show haven't been seen before. They were brought together from albums broken apart after Goya's death. The beautiful Nightmare drawing that became the exhibition poster was created in the 1820's and was discovered during an inventory of the Musee des Beaux-Art in Marseilles. The British Goya expert, Juliet Wilson-Barcau, identified it and arranged its first public display in the Goya exhibition. It is thought to come from one of the eight albums, which Goya began in about 1796 and which he continued until the end of his life. This was the first time that they were reunited and displayed together.

Francisco Goya was born in 1746, in a village halfway between Madrid and Barcelona and was brought up in Saragosa where his father worked as a guilder. Francisco studied with a local artist and was an assistant in the 1760's in Madrid. After two failures in competitions for the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Goya decided to go to Italy, where he spent a decisive year in Rome. His earliest drawing in this exhibition showed the influence of Venentian Domenico Tiepolo who worked for the King in Madrid from 1762 until 1770 (the year he went to Italy as part of his apprenticeship). Tiepolo owned a bound volume of Goya's Capricos. It is possible that the two men maintained a friendship for more than 30 years.

Goya declared that he was "self-taught" no teacher other than his own observation of the celebrated artists and paintings in Rome and Spain. Goya even taught painting at the Royal Academy in Madrid in1785, and he declared that "there are no rules in painting". He believed in the artist's individual genius and in the need to encourage freedom of expression over correct drawing.

In 1775 he settled in Madrid with his family. He painted decorative designs for the Royal tapestry factory that supplied tapestry to the various royal residences at that time under Carlos III. Carlos carried out reforms and modernised Madrid, completing a magnificent new Royal Palace. Goya had a reputation for his original and amusing tapestry cartoons and fine religious pictures and skilful life-like portraits.

Another Goya exhibition came to the Royal Academy in 1994 and I saw many of his small paintings as well. The albums are The Caprichos, The Disasters of War, The Tauromaquia, The Proverbs and The Giant, Sanlucar Album, Madrid Album and The Inquisition. Just when Goya had consolidated his position at the Court of Carlos IV he became very ill and went to convalesce in Andalusia and in Seville. He nearly died and was afflicted in the middle-age by becoming extremely deaf so he lived in his own world and did not know what was going on around him. His family probably originated from the Basque country, the legendary home of witches and there is an album dedicated to Madness Witches and the Old Women album. All this was a turning point in his career that coincided with the dramatic events of the French Revolution. But with Fernando VII the monarchy returned to Spain in triumph in 1814 after the victory in the war independence against Napoleon. On his return he reinstated the Inquisition and many Spanish liberals went in exile to France. Then Goya, at the age of 78, settled in Bordeaux for the last three years of his life. [His Dancing Old Women in Castanets, his themes of nightmares, madness and senility and beggars reminded me of Bunuel (a Spanish film director) characters as in the same gallery was also the exhibition of Brassai - the French photograph who made Paris in his home from 1924. (I wrote about the exhibition and this is under Photograph 2001 http://www. verinhaottoni. com ). Brassai (Gyula Halasz from Hungary) said he was influenced by Goya. ]It was an emotional exhibition and a great privilege to have the opportunity to see his drawings of the time when Spain was the centre of the world!

Another amazing bit of information about Goya at the Prado Museum is that (according to the British expert Juliet Wilson-Bareau, who organised the exhibition) two of his most famous paintings actually may not be by him!! (the paintings are The Colossus and The Milkmaid of Bordeaux) But the Prado Museum has no intention of moving the paintings although they admitted that following the x-rays of the Milkmaid of Bordeaux there were sketches of other figures underneath and you don't see this in a genuine Goya. The Prado has 150 Goyas and some of which aren't necessarily his. There are 500 works in the world attributed to Goya and some could be Goya's assistants Agustin Esteve, Asensio Julia, or Leonard Alenza, an artist known for his perfect copies of Goya, who tried to satisfy a booming market for Goya in the early 19th century. Goya, like Rembrandt, had a great number of works attributed to him but with new research there are fewer works attributed to him than there was a century ago.

At the same time the Goya exhibition was in London there was as exhibition on Murillo at the Dulwich Picture Gallery (until 13 May 2001), called Murillo Scenes of Childhood. Bartolome Esteban Murillo 1617-1682 concentrated his themes of religion and in particular on the Immaculate Conception. In maturity he developed softer forms, rich colours and idealised figures and was probably influenced by Rubens, Van Dyck, and Tilian. He often painted beggars and Spanish Gypsies. Maybe he fell from grace socially because of his themes. Murillo was profoundly catholic; his career reflected personal circumstances - he had nine children -their mother died when they were very young; also of his of Seville was blighted by a succession of tragedies throughout the 17th century: famine, chronic, financial recession and plague also devastated the population. Five of his children died and he became a member of three lay charitable fraternities distributing bread to the hungry. One was the Confraternity of the Rosary and in 1665 he joined the Brotherhood of charity, an order devoted to the physical care of the paupers of the Seville and gave his life to the service of the Church. In fact his death at the age of 65 was caused when he fell off a ladder while working on the upper reaches of an altarpiece.

Murillo eclipsed other famous painters as Velazquez and Zurbaran. But he also painted beautiful dogs - there is no convincing that the mongrels of Seville were always barking at his pictures. Many of his pictures were of the street children such as Urchin With Dog and Basket, wonderfully delicate. Most of this exhibition on the theme of three children comes from America, Russia and Europe. In the 19th Century many British artists and collectors admired and collected Murillo. In this exhibition you can see how innovative these images of beggars and trades in 17th century Seville really were. In Urchin Hunting for Fleas the painting looks simple but is in fact a very sophisticated structure. Recently, a French woman was tricked by her lesbian lover into giving up a valuable Murillo painting. Now her relatives are suing the auction house Christie's for its role in the affair.

In the late '50s/early 60s a film was produced about Goya called The Naked Maja (after one of his famous and controversial paintings as the artist had to do, for the sake of propriety, two versions - one naked and one covered up). The film starred Anthony Francis and I believe it was Ava Gardner in the role of the Maja.

Velazquez has been celebrated in Seville for his 400th anniversary. The exhibition Velazquez in Seville was at the Charterhouse Monastery, La Cartuja, and there were four Velazquez walks around the place where he lived and worked. What an emotion - to follow his footsteps. Velazquez is the revolutionary Spanish painter. The celebration marked the discovery of the young Diego Velazquez in Seville before he moved to the court in Madrid at the age of 24 and became the great court painter of his age in what was the extraordinary 17th Century in Spain.

It is unbelievable that in Seville, the capital of Andalucia, you can still see the great monuments that Velazquez saw in his time - the historical part of the city is as it was in his day. Seville flourished hugely under the Moors - a mixed race of Berbers and Arabs- that crossed into Spain from North Africa by the straits of Gibraltar, landing in Tarifa in 1710 and occupying the Iberian Peninsula. Seville is a city with distinctly Arab air, with external walls, deep-sunk patios fountains and pyramids off flowers. When the Christians re-conquered the place they kept the Arab buildings including La Giralda(a Moorish tower from where the Islamic faithful called to prayer, reaching 305 feet, which has become a famous landmark of Seville. It was named at the 16th Century Giraldillo - the weather vane at the tower's summit - and has been there for more than eight centuries). Another monument is the Golden Tower part of the wall of the old city, all influenced by the Christians and Moors. The Royal Fortress and Alcazares Realesand Casa de Pilatos are two examples of buildings of great houses, which were a mix of Moorish-Christian style called Mudejar. The week before Easter holds the most colourful festival in Spain, with more than 60 religious brotherhoods dressed in their eerie-looking capuchones that were used during the Spanish Inquisition; it's a very theatrical festival. Another monument, the Gothic Cathedral, was there at the time of Velazquez.

The house Velazquez was born in still survives; his family lived in the same room that today houses fashion workers and hairdressers. The actual font were Diego was christened still survives in the Church of San Pedro. He learned to paint in Pacheco's workshop, now a hotel. He married Pacheco's daughter and they had two daughters.

The poster featuring the exhibition was everywhere in Seville showing the Sevillian Seller, this painting with "the water-seller standing reticent his chin tucked in, resting on the elaborate glass goblet that he is handing to the young lad. A serious touch of white in his skimpy beard, his brown jerkin rent at the shoulder. Water evaporating on his pitcher gleam as clear as diamonds. "

Little has changed in Velazquez's birthplace of Seville. You can see my photos and recall of my time in Spain in my diary, also the newer ones of Francesca's recent visit to Spain on www. verinhaottoni. com. We really love Spain. It was a dream to be walking in Velazquez's hometown.

At the end of December 2001 the National Gallery was exhibiting one Goya. This was a huge painting - a very complex painting The Family of the Infante Don Luis. It was a bold image of its time (1784) as Goya appears in the painting with palette in hand. It was probably because D. Luis was a collector and admirer of Velazquez that he considered Goya appearing in the painting as Velazquez had himself appeared in his painting Las Meninas in 1656 when Velazquez was a painter at the court of Philip IV of Spain. Las Meninas portrayed an informal family group and included Velazquez at work on a huge canvas. Goya, nearly 100 years later did an etching of Velzquez's Las Meninas that is now at the British Museum. The other thing I liked about the Don Luis family painting, are the stories of all the characters portrayed. Don Luis was a great "Casanova himself" but the real "Casanova" called him "terrifically ugly". He is painted in profile, disregarding his wife who was 32 years younger that him. He had to marry her and was banned from court and Madrid because of his "prostitute problems", love affairs and scandals. The King, his brother Charles III, decreed he should marry forthwith and gave Don Luis three choices. He chose Dona Maria Teresa de Vallabriga, who occupies the centre of the painting. In the process of being attended by her hairdresser she gazes out pale and luminous from a room crowded with her three young children and members of their household. Another interesting fact surrounding this painting is that Don Luis died before the painting was finished and it was not listed in his inventory. The painting was discovered later in Italy by a decedent of Don Luis; it was never hung by the people depicted in the painting. It now belongs to the Magnani-Rocca Foundation in Parma, at Traverseloto, in an eighteenth century Villa Mamiano di Traverseloto, north of Italy. Magnani acquired the painting in 1974 from the Italian descendants of Don Luis. Luigi Magnani 1906-1984 was a collector, Historian and writer in art and music. The painting was lent to the National Gallery for this exhibition. In this particular room at the National Gallery they displayed only one painting and a detailed study of how the painting came about. Not being in expert myself, I enjoy following the story of the individuals involved in the painting. So the exhibition became fascinating.

So when I am in the mood to see Goya I go to Madrid where there is a fantastic triangle of art - the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen. It is probably the greatest concentration of old and new masters of Spain. But if you have to be choosy, go to the Goyas at the Prado. His painting take up two floors of one wing. You can watch his extraordinary decent from the joyous life and humour of the tapestry cartoons to the tormented pit of the "black paintings". That struggle between extremes of pleasure and pain, reason and superstition, is at the core of the Spanish soul.

Verinha Ottoni.

P. S. Old man Goya - a book by Julia Blackburn: "Goya is not the subject here. He is the author's imaginary friend. "

P. S. 2. Also I saw on BBC a visual-art documentary, Goya crazy like a genius by Robert Hughes. He says of the images of war: "which make him: The father figure of every war photographer I've ever known". As I understand it Goya's coffin (body) was taken back to Spain. But his head is still missing??Maybe it was cut off because Goya didn't want anyone to find out that he was maybe Jewish.

 




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