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Witness: Reality and Imagination in the Prints of Francisco Goya
April 22, 2017 - September 6, 2017
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building
Witness: Reality and Imagination in the Prints of Francisco Goya
April 22, 2017 - September 6, 2017
Visions of Spanish life from one of the greatest graphic artists of all time

Francisco Goya witnessed decades of political turmoil and social upheaval as court painter to four successive rulers of Spain. Among his greatest achievements were four series of etchings that chronicle the transformation of Spanish society and his own personal visions: Los Caprichos (The Caprices), Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War), La Tauromaquia (Bullfighting), and Los Disparates (The Follies). Near the end of his life, Goya also produced a set of four grand lithographs known as the Bulls of Bordeaux. This exhibition highlights prints from each series, exploring the imagery and techniques that make Goya one of the greatest graphic artists of all time.

From the chaos of war to the spectacle of the bullfight, the prints in the exhibition show Goya’s remarkable ability to move between documentary realism and expressive invention. Unlike his commissioned paintings, his graphic works allowed him the freedom to explore provocative subjects such as prostitution, witchcraft, and political corruption. This exhibition also highlights how Goya pushed the limits of printmaking to heighten the expressive effect of his subjects.


Explore Goya’s Innovative Print Series

Due to their eventual popularity and widespread impact, all four of Goya’s etching series were published numerous times after his death. The Museum is fortunate to own complete first-edition sets of each etching series as well as his final suite of lithographs, selections of which are displayed in the exhibition. Browse the full sets below.

The Chinchillas (Los Chinchillas) Plate 50 from the series Los Caprichos (Caprices)
The Chinchillas (Los Chinchillas)
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Los Caprichos (The Caprices)

In his first major print series, Los Caprichos, Goya critiques Spanish society by satirizing human folly and exposing institutional corruption. He produced this suite during a period of political instability in Spain and shortly after an illness that left him deaf. His choice of the word capricho, which can be translated as whim or invention, suggests the prints were derived from his imagination despite their often documentary appearance.

Scenes of daily Spanish life are interspersed with supernatural visions. Recurring themes include the frivolity of courtship rituals, the dangers of ignorance, and the absurdity of superstition. Many of his moralizing messages reveal the impact of the Enlightenment, which espoused that reason should govern thought and behavior.

Although the series was a commercial failure in his lifetime, the prints had an enormous influence on later artists.

Browse all works in this series >>


What Courage! (Que Valor!)
What Courage! (Que valor!)
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Los Desastres de la Guerra
(The Disasters of War)

This strikingly modern series depicts the Napoleonic invasion and occupation of Spain (1808–14) and the repressive rule that followed the French defeat. The works include brutal scenes of war and famine as well as allegorical images that serve as commentary on the oppressive post-war government. While the searing images appear to have been captured from life, Goya was never on the battlefield, relying instead on reports and his imagination.

Browse all works in this series >>


The Agility and Audacity of Juanito Apiñani in [the Ring] at Madrid (Ligereza y Atrevimiento de Juanito Apiñani en la de Madrid) Plate 20 from the series La Tauromaquia (Bullfighting)
The Agility and Audacity of Juanito Apiñani in [the Ring] at Madrid (Ligereza y atrevimiento de Juanito Apiñani en la de Madrid)
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La Tauromaquia (Bullfighting)

With its thrilling views from the bullring, La Tauromaquia captures Goya’s passion for the art of bullfighting. After the restoration of the Spanish monarchy in 1814, Goya began to create works he hoped would appeal to a broad audience. The series recounts the history of bullfighting, from ancient Spaniards hunting wild bulls to professional matadors in the bullring. The prints also expose the brutality of the sport, controversial even during the artist’s lifetime.

Browse all works in this series >>


A Way of Flying (Modo de volar)
A Way of Flying (Modo de volar)
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Los Disparates (The Follies)

The surreal fantasies and unsettling scenes of the grotesque in this series offer a glimpse into Goya’s imagination. Although scholars have attempted to connect the imagery to various subjects—contemporary politics, traditional proverbs, and the Spanish carnival—Goya’s intentions for producing the series and the meaning of the dreamlike scenes remain a mystery.

Browse all works in this series >>


Spanish Entertainment (Dibersión de España) From the series Bulls of Bordeaux
Spanish Entertainment (Dibersión de España)
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Bulls of Bordeaux

In 1823 Goya left Madrid to live his final years in self-imposed exile in Bordeaux, France. There he returned to the subject of bullfighting, producing four large lithographs. Goya was among the first to exploit the spontaneity and painterly qualities of lithography to full effect. In this series, he masterfully brings together technique and subject matter to capture the drama of the bullring.

Browse all works in this series >>


Curators

Danielle Canter, Margaret R. Mainwaring Curatorial Fellow; and Shelley R. Langdale, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings

Location

Korman Galleries 121–123, first floor, main building

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