Spanish born Francisco Goya was primarily seen by his mid-18th and early 19th century contemporaries as a masterful court painter for the aristocracy. History regards him as one of the first modern artists, whose politically charged work still resonates today. As a court painter for three different kings, Goya created about 500 oil paintings during his 82 year life span. While painting the well-to-do with one hand, Goya was busy critiquing them and the state of society with the other. In 1799, he published Los Caprichos, a series of 80 gray-and-black etched prints.
“He was one of the first artists to really, I think in such a straight forward way address a political and religious unrest,” said Loveland’s Cultural Services Director Susan Ison.
At the time, Spain was unstable. The church and aristocracy thrived, while people outside those bastions struggled. In Los Caprichos, Spanish for the whims, Goya used allegory to depict the vice and human error he saw at work all-around him.
Prostitution, corruption, witchcraft, the clergy, and superstition were among the taboo topics he commented on in the prints.
Perhaps the most widely recognizable work in Los Caprichosis The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, which laments the end of The Enlightenment period. In it, a man asleep at his desk is loomed over by the stuff of his nightmares.
“He’s able to capture various subtleties of human behavior and subtleties of expression,” said Maureen Corey, curator of art at the Loveland museum and gallery.
When Goya completed Los Caprichos, sets were sold to the public at a Spanish perfume and liquor store. They weren’t exactly best sellers. In the four years on the market, 27 sold. Nowadays? Though still seen as grotesque and compelling, the images are among the most highly regarded works of art today.
By Carrie Saldo
Arts District is a collaboration of KUNC, Rocky Mountain PBS and KUVO.