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Solo Goya

Went with larians' parents to see the Goya exhibition yesterday.

The focus was on his portraits, so there are vast bodies of his work not covered but still it was extraordinary, and it has stayed with me in my dreams and even now, as the snow falls and I wake, still hearing very audibly a short piano piece repeating in my head.
Portraits, not unkind, but never sycophantic, never flattering, brush strokes rather than detailed illustration; Charles III, unashamed in his ugliness, Llorente brought in to dissolve the inquisition, a warm bright smile on his face, Ferdinand VII, a nasty little sh*t, his personality written upon his features without one ounce of exaggeration or caricature. Friends and patrons, among them the famously fiery Duchess of Alba, staring out at the viewer, her fingers pointing to two words beneath her feet on the sand: Solo Goya. She crackled with life, but even she could not take the place of the picture that caught my attention most fully.

Goya's depictions of Wellington contrast with each other in a way I find interesting. The portrait is not all that really: A man... what? Slightly ill-at-ease, possibly not the most gratifying sitter for an artist, abrupt perhaps, but robust enough for the Generalissimo who chases Boney out of Spain to Goya's satisfaction.

The life study is something else.

It reminded me of Pound's 'Song of the Bowmen of Shu.'
'...What flower has come into blossom?
Whose chariot? The General's.
Horses, his horses even, are tired. They were strong.
We have no rest, three battles a month. By heaven, his horses are tired

Exhausted and so gaunt! There is a frailty in the sit of his shoulders, in his expression. This is not a triumphant man, though he brings triumph. Oh Man of War! His eyes say worlds beyond the grey lights of the portrait.

It captured me more even than Goya's tender and true renderings of friends and close colleagues, but there was so much more. I learned a lot yesterday. It makes me want to seek out the rest of his works, see them more closely. Even when we went out into Charing X road, wandered up through Friday night Goodge Street to the Salt Yard for a pretty fine meal, thoughts of Goya stayed with me.

The music has left my head, the snow has become rain. But our guests are waking up and we're out of milk, so I had better get to it.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 23rd, 2015 12:37 am (UTC)
Goya is one of my favourite artists, not least because his work is so varied. Have you seen the black paintings in the basement of the Prado?
Nov. 23rd, 2015 07:44 am (UTC)
I have not even visited Madrid!

To see the black paintings is an ambition of mine. What did you think of them?
Nov. 26th, 2015 10:16 pm (UTC)
Gosh - that does surprise me! Madrid is a wonderful and vibrant city: I can't recommend it highly enough!

As for the black paintings - after wanting to see them for so long I was ever so slightly underwhelmed, but it was what John calls "dancing elephants syndrome". In other words, I've built it up so much in my mind that nothing short of an elephant tap dancing upside-down on the ceiling is going to measure up. Definitely well worth seeing though! I also understand they were all together in one building when they were originally painted. That must have been a little disturbing to live with.
Nov. 27th, 2015 08:57 am (UTC)
I must visit Madrid and Barcelona. Problem is, when I go to Spain it is inevitably to visit family... But I must look further. Madrid sounds amazing.

I know what you mean about 'dancing elephants syndrome.' It happened to me on seeing the Pillar of the Boatmen in Paris. While I loved it as a piece, I expected a thrill to go through me at seeing a depiction of Cernunnos from a time when he was actually worshipped, but I didn't feel any emotional response. Maybe I had built it up too much, or perhaps it just wasn't all that. Boney's tomb was more interesting, simply because it looked as though they had buried him in a roll-top desk!

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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