Sunday, May 04, 2008

El Dos De Mayo....Goya En Tiempos De Guerra

This exhibition at the Prado is probably the jewel in the crown of all the exhibitions marking the events of 200 years ago. It includes works by Goya from the period more or less beginning with the French revolution up to the years immediately following the restoration of the Bourbons to the Spanish throne after the defeat of Napoleon.

Goya was not just an exceptional artist, his work gives a real feel for the times in which he lived. Although many of his paintings were commissioned works of royalty, members of the aristocracy or other dignitaries, he also painted ordinary people going about their business, or even scenes of asylums for the mentally ill and prisons. Many of his works include elements of fantasy with the presence of demons, ghosts or witches. Even the commissioned portraits avoid the stiff formality so common in such works.

At the centre of this exhibition are his two famous paintings about the events of the 2nd and 3rd of May 1808. The first shows vicious street fighting between Madrileños and the Egyptian Mameluke cavalry which the French sent in to try and suppress the uprising. The second painting portrays the summary execution by firing squad the following day of those accused of being involved in the uprising.

The exhibition also features a collection of drawings under the generic title of the “Disasters of War”, a grim series which makes no attempt to conceal the miseries inflicted by the conflicts of the era. Even a series of still lifes included here seems to focus more on death than anything else. Goya himself was a survivor, he lived in very turbulent times and managed to be court painter for both the Bourbons and during the short lived rule of Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother. Surviving the purge of the “afrancesados” following the end of the Peninsular War, he continued to work both for the court and for private clients.

It goes without saying that the Prado has a fine permanent collection of Goya’s paintings which can be seen at any time. Nevertheless, even allowing for the effect of marketing this show is worth visiting. It runs until the 13th July and costs just €6, a bargain.


Sierra said...

"...Many of his works include elements of fantasy with the presence of demons, ghosts or witches...." So the PP was about in those days!

Graeme said...

:) Manuel Fraga was in charge of their youth section at the time of the uprising. They say that Goya's Pintura Negra was the result of spending a week at a PP summer school.