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Robert Hughes, who has stunned us with comprehensive works on subjects as sweeping and complex as the history of Australia (The Fatal Shore), the modern art movement (The Shock of the New), the nature of American art (American Visions), and the nature of America itself as seen through its art (The Culture of Complaint), now turns his renowned critical eye to one of art history’s most compelling, enigmatic, and important figures, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes. With characteristic critical fervor and sure-eyed insight, Hughes brings us the story of an artist whose life and work bridged the transition from the eighteenth-century reign of the old masters to the early days of the nineteenth-century moderns.
With his salient passion for the artist and the art, Hughes brings Goya vividly to life through dazzling analysis of a vast breadth of his work. Building upon the historical evidence that exists, Hughes tracks Goya’s development, as man and artist, without missing a beat, from the early works commissioned by the Church, through his long, productive, and tempestuous career at court, to the darkly sinister and cryptic work he did at the end of his life.
In a work that is at once interpretive biography and cultural epic, Hughes grounds Goya firmly in the context of his time, taking us on a wild romp through Spanish history; from the brutality and easy violence of street life to the fiery terrors of the Holy Inquisition to the grave realities of war, Hughes shows us in vibrant detail the cultural forces that shaped Goya’s work.
Underlying the exhaustive, critical analysis and the rich historical background is Hughes’s own intimately personal relationship to his subject. This is a book informed not only by lifelong love and study, but by his own recent experiences of mortality and death. As such this is a uniquely moving and human book; with the same relentless and fearless intelligence he has brought to every subject he has ever tackled, Hughes here transcends biography to bring us a rich and fiercely brave book about art and life, love and rage, impotence and death. This is one genius writing at full capacity about another—and the result is truly spectacular.
over again. The second is disgust, the kind of impotent, life-poisoning doubt of the very possibility of human dignity that turns every speech about the hope of the transcendent human spirit into fatuous sermonizing. This appears twice, in its naked form, in the first “movement” of the Desastres: in plate 18, Enterrar y callar (“Bury them and shut up”), where two survivors, hands and handkerchiefs stuffed to their faces to block the stench of decay, scan a heap of stripped bodies, now beginning
39 Locos, 10.1, 10.2 40 Loco furioso, 10.1, 10.2 50 Gimiendo y llorando, 10.1, 10.2 51 Cómico descubrimiento 53 “They fly and fly. Fiesta in the air. The Butterfly Bull” 54 Aún aprendo, 2.1, 2.2 Bordeaux Album II, plates, 3.1 Telégrafo, 10.1 Bordeaux School of Design and Painting borrachos, Los (Goya), 4.1, 4.2 borrachos, Los (Vélasquez) Bort, Julián, 4.1, 4.2 Bosch, Hieronymus, 1.1, 2.1 Boullée, Étienne-Louis, 6.1, 9.1, 9.2 Bourbon monarchy, 1.1, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7,
hairdresser. THE WORD petimetre derived from the French petit-maître, but you had to be Spanish for it to fully apply. The petimetre was a bundle of pretensions: manners, clothing, language, all were judged (by him and others) in terms of their success in aping French and, to a lesser degree, Italian manners and artifices. The satirical papers and the comic theater of the time were full of him. He was an unending source of satirical possibility—a helpless but indefatigable fashion victim, a
alleys of Madrid, the eponymous hero of one of Ramón de la Cruz’s more popular sainetes. Goya, Un majo sentado con espada (“Seated majo with sword”), Drawing, Instituto Valencia (illustration credit 3.11) Goya, Maja, 1824-28. Etching and drypoint, 19 × 12 cm. The Hispanic Society of America, New York. (illustration credit 3.12) To see what majas wore, one need only look at Goya’s portraits of the duchess of Alba or of Queen María Luisa, who liked to display herself as a sexy woman of the
“Who would risk giving the smallest offense to a man who is believed to hold power over your life, affairs, and honor?” The fourth reason was simple malevolence: denounce a person as a witch and you can cause him or her endless grief, from social enmity to the fires of the Inquisition. And the fifth and possibly the widest cause was delusion—the person’s belief that he or she really is a witch. Sometimes it happens with subjects in whom a lively imagination is combined with a timid heart; when