Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Couple of Things I Just Learned About Goya

Best I can remember, I've been to four Goya shows in my life, if you count the stuff at the Prado in Madrid. Two of the four were at the Frick here in New York, the latest today.  The show is actually billed as The Spanish Manner: Drawings from Ribera to Goya, and some of the early stuff is indeed interesting, but one of the two rooms is devoted entirely to Goya, and it taught me at least two things about Goya that I never knew before.

One: I guess I didn't realize how prolific he was, and how diverse.  In my febrile adolescence, I had a whole portfolio of prints of the Horrors of War--it took me a while to figure out that the ladies did not think this a turn-on.  But I see how that his range is so much broader.  Plenty of horrors, but lots of telling scenes from ordinary life, some sly digs at religion, even one "Nude Seated Beside a Brook," which puts you in mind of Manet.

The other: it never occurred to me  before how good Goya is at handling the body in action.  There's a drawing called "Three Men Digging," which  is pretty clearly a model for a painting named "The Forge," also in the Frick (on the main floor).  And when that guy flexes his legs and raises his arms to swing (the shovel; the sledgehammer), you can really feel the energy and tension in his limbs.  So also his "Peasant Carrying a Woman"--he's really carrying her, though it is far from clear just what he is carrying her over, or why.  So also two pictures of old men leaning on canes: you can believe that the cane feels the weight.  Aside from Goya, I'm also a big Tiepolo fan.  I like Tiepolo not least because his airborne figures really fly; Goya has the same kind of knack.

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