Tue, 03 Mar 2015
Grotesques

Goya, at The Courtauld

This small, two room exhibition of Francisco Goya drawings shows his fantastical side. Dozens of small pencil and ink drawings (and some lithographs) are brought together at The Courtauld under the title : The Witches and Old Women Album.

Done for his own amusement, no commissions here, they are uniquely "Goya". Perhaps his most famous drawing in this vein is El sueño de la razón produce monstruos :

This picture has been much discussed and analysed, with it usually considered as meaning that the absence of reason results in bad things happening. I recently came across a contrary view however, by "Spengler" (David Goldman), a conservative, Jewish commentator, who writes :

Francisco Goya's 1799 etching "El sueño de la razón produce monstruos" usually is mistranslated as “the sleep of reason produces monsters.” The word sueño typically (and clearly in this context) means "dream." The mistranslation implies that monsters emerge when reason ceases to be vigilant; what Goya meant, rather, is that "monsters are what reason dreams about."

This is an anti-enlightenment, anti-revolutionary viewpoint, in opposition to the often anti-religious currency common today, and born of the French Revolution. Without Goya around to tell us, it is difficult to know what he meant for certain. However, as human beings, we know that we can produce monsters whether we are reasonable or not (as John Gray would point out).

The drawings on display in this exhibition are of a similar, nightmarish vein. An obsession with age, death and horror. Some quite grotesque, many odd. Quite a strange artist.