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Francisco Goya

Holstebro Kunstmuseum’s collection of international prints includes a very discriminating selection of outstanding artists represented with one or more continuous series: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Alberto Giacometti, and Francis Bacon.
 
Francisco de Goya’s series ‘Los Caprichos’ (the caprices) has added a historical dimension to the museum collection. The total of 80 aquatints comprising the series were executed around 1793-1798, but were not published until 1799. The printing technique used, allowing the inclusion of greyscale and resulting in dramatic contrasts of light and shade, was chiefly inspired by Rembrandt.
 
Due to his expressive and original imagery, Francisco de Goya is considered to be one of the chief precursors of modern art. And despite his attachment to the Spanish court, Goya was among the first artists to free himself from the combined authorities of Church and state. His motifs together with his free and almost burlesque treatment of them, therefore, point to the developments that would be overtaking art towards the end of the 1800s and well into the 20th century. Eugène Delacroix, Honoré Daumier, Édouard Manet, and, not least, Pablo Picasso count among the artists that were directly inspired by his art.
 
The title ‘Los Caprichos’ is derived from the Italian term capriccio, which actually means fickle, but which is also used to denote whimsicality. Hence a number of the prints depict macabre and bizarre scenes of abomination and witchcraft. Often, Francisco de Goya’s individual scenes are expressed in the form of fable in which animal figures are depicted assuming human qualities and mannerisms. Goya adds ambiguous dimensions to his interpretations and, in certain cases, the specific message of the representations has not yet been fully clarified.
 
But the series also contains elements of explicit social satire. Here, Goya’s criticism is far-reaching and poisonous. He renders the pervasive superstition, the ignorance and ineptitude of the ruling classes together with the lack of educational insight and matrimonial slip-ups. In addition to this, some of the motifs contain anti-clerical themes.
 
The individual prints in the series thus portray human folly and the wretched circumstances of humankind while frequently referring to Spanish proverbs and linguistic turns of phrase in the picture titles. 
 
Francisco de Goya (No. 1) belonged to the circle of reformist liberal Spaniards whose social outlook was inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment. Therefore Goya lamented the fact that Man’s ideas and actions were not, to a greater extent, governed by reason. This is particularly evident in the best-known motif in the series, namely ‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters’ (No. 43).
 
Francisco Goya. Selfportrait from the album "Los Caprichos", published 1799