Old Man Goya
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In 1792, when he was forty-seven, the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya contracted an illness that left him stone deaf. Yet he continued to interact with the world and to create, spending the next thirty-five years in a world emptied of sound but bursting with images of pageantry, cruelty, and pathos.
In this brilliant, idiosyncratic book – a kaleidoscope of biography, memoir, history, and meditation – Julia Blackburn vividly imagines the artist’s world during this time. She recreates the artist’s friendships and love affairs and breathes life into the subjects of his paintings: an ethereally lovely duchess; the spoiled grotesques of the Bourbon court; the atrocities of the Napoleonic wars. Old Man Goya is a rare work of empathy and imagination, a stunning portrait of the mind and life of a great artist.
a nightmare and dreaming that he is blind. People with the faces of monsters and monsters with the faces of people crowd around him. He can feel the deformity of their noses, their eyes, their mouths, their ears, but he can see nothing. He knows he was screaming when he woke, because of the pain the sound made as it tore at the back of his throat. The Duchess tries to comfort him, but she is afraid of so much fear. Goya had left Doñana before the winter of 1796. He might have stayed with his
body changes once the life inside it has gone. You feel you have learnt something about the fact of dying. In Still Life with Golden Bream, six little fishes lie heaped up on each other. They are so recently dead that they are still gleaming with life and their round staring eyes are without the glaze of absence that will come in the next moment. The darkness of the night is illuminated by the moon that catches on the breaking foam at the edge of the sea behind them. The moon also shines on
procession of flagellants; the massed crowd at a bullfight; the massed crowd at a carnival; a lunatic asylum in which one of the naked inmates wears the horns of a bull, another wears a tricorne hat and shoots an invisible rifle at an invisible enemy and a third, wearing a crown of playing cards, holds a sceptre and sings to himself with his eyes tight shut. (illustration credit 24.1) Goya produced commissioned work when it was asked of him. In an equestrian portrait he rubbed out the face of
attempts to produce that same clown on her own. They do a group of children tugging at a little cart, a fat smiling monk, a man on his deathbed. People writing about Goya get as cross with Rosario as they do with Leocadia. They mock her lack of technical ability, ignoring the fact that she is only six, seven, eight years old at the time. They hate her for daring to interfere with the master’s work, as if she was disrespectful, or was trying to deceive future generations of art historians. Some
was as if he wanted the child from his first family to come and see him here with his second family, to give him the blessing of acceptance, in spite of everything. He invited Javier repeatedly. He offered to pay all the expenses. He extolled the benefits of Bordeaux, especially the financial benefits. And finally, in January 1828, Javier said yes, he would come, probably in the summer. In the meantime he would persuade his wife Gumersinda and his son Mariano to visit the old man. On 17 January,