to the exhibit catalog
"Images of Women" Exhibit in
Washington DC National
Gallery of Art 2002
first impression from seeing such a variety of Goya paintings
gathered in one place is the enormity of many of these famous works.
They fill whole walls and spill over into peripheral sight. Seeing
(for example) The Grape Harvest in a book or catalog gives
no projection of the largeness of it, the whole dominating physical
secondary impression following the impact of dimension is the finish
on many of these "official" works of Spain's court painter.
There is a high, refined gloss over these images, with a great deal
of attention given to balancing the focal center (typically a group
of figures) against the hazier, softer background (usually a soft-focused
landscape). Between the sheer size and the scope of minute attention
given to all the elements in the painting, one comes away with an
idea of Goya's energy and professional determination to excel in
his office. Goya's ambitions aside, that he could complete such
large pieces with such attention to quality gives a telling contrast
to the ideas in his smaller, private paintings, which show a cruder,
more immediate style.
there is a very good selection of such works in the exhibit. There
are a number of portraits, plus the loosely-themed personal works.
The exhibit includes several rooms dedicated to etchings & drawings,
with the selection of preliminary drawings for the etchings particularly
interesting, since they do not show up in the usual Goya literature
catalog published for the exhibit is very well done, and the
image reproduction good. The text includes much detail for each
painting, and the though laced with editorial comments on various
contemporary issues (e.g., the condition of women in Spain) it should
serve as a good window into the mindset for future generations about
those who put together this exhibit collection. Also, the current
arguments about authorship on some disputed paintings is given brief
explanation, and much of the reasoning in fashion toward explaining
Goya's personality is also mentioned, without any heavy-handed psychiatry,
which is good.
these paintings in the pseudo-mausoleum atmosphere of the National
Gallery detracts a bit from the warmth in a good number of the images
(and the tapestries, too, which in historical value help explain
what exactly Goya was up to during the first half of his career),
but on the whole the opportunity to see such a terrific collection
of works in one place is quite an event, and the organizers must
have had to do a great deal of work to mount it. Congratulations
are due them for such a feat.
Weems, November 2002
Building of the National
Gallery of Art
March 10 through June 2, 2002.