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Art Review: Editorial etchings

Life-threatening illness inspired Goya to pursue truth and commentary in his works.

May 19, 2010|By Terri Martin

Goya attacks his contemporaries in a satirical image titled "Neither More Nor Less." A monkey paints a portrait of an ass, altering reality by leaving out his long donkey ears and dignifying him with formal dress. The artist convicts both patrons and painters of deceit and hypocrisy. The suite of etchings is stuffed with witches. An etching titled "Pretty Teacher" depicts two witches, one old and one young, naked on broomstick. The elder teaching the younger refers to the perpetuity of the inquisition committee. Embedded is a twist in which, witch hunters in service to the inquisition committee are depicted as witches. Who are the bad guys?

Deciphering good from bad in the Caprichos is aided by a style that is precursory to photojournalism. Contrasting values; light is good and dark is bad; representation is truth and abstraction is deceit, are qualities that will become characteristic of photographic technique a few years after Goya's death.

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He is also considered a modern art pioneer for using art as a form of expression. Art served as political propaganda for popes and kings. Art could lie. Goya objected to false recordings; he imbued art with a conscience. He expressed truth by depicting his kings and queens with warts and all.

Goya wanted to improve the human condition and courageously used his art as a weapon. He can be likened to modern photojournalists who report the world condition as it is. It was only Goya's position in society that allowed his public judgments to go unpunished. There is no resolving Caprichos, just understanding Goya's warnings to be vigilant.

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