LECTURE is about a particular phase in Francisco Goya's life that led to his prolific manifestation of etchings and aquatint caricatures.

We will look at - Los Caprichos & Los Disparates

* analyse the different themes of these cartoon etchings linking allegorical criticism with aesthetic pessimism

* technique and composition of the plates


At the age of forty, Goya was appointed painter to the Bourbon king Carlos III and in 1786 he was promoted to court painter under the newly appointed Carlos IV. The year 1789 also marked the fall of the French monarchy (as Carlos IV was unwilling to support his cousin Luis XVI ), and in 1793 France declared war on Spain. 

At this time Goya travelled to Cádiz in Andalusia with Sebastián Martínez y Pérez (1747 - 1800), an enlightened Spanish politician and merchant who was also known as a collector of books, engravings and paintings.

In 1792, Goya, who at 47 was already one of Europe's leading artists, suffered an illness that left him deaf. He suffered from headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, hearing loss, impaired vision and paresis in his right arm. This was followed by depression with hallucinations, delirium and gradual weight loss. 

During his long convalescence, he read extensively in his friend's library, which contained more than a thousand copies on various subjects, from social and political issues of his time, especially the French Revolution, to ancient Greek philosophers and writers. Sebastián Martínez amassed a collection of 743 paintings of various genres, periods and origins; the most important private collection in Europe at the time. He also owned sculptures, musical instruments, furniture, carved silver objects, precision machinery and thousands of prints. 

One printmaker in this collection who caught Goya's eye was William Hogarth (1697 - 1764), a British satirical artist, printmaker and illustrator who hated the French Rocco art scene because it glorified the excessive wealth and frivolity of the aristocracy. This hatred led him to create paintings and etchings in the style of comic strips, which he called "modern moral mores". Many of these works, sometimes unsparing, mocked contemporary customs, conventions, and politics. He was a great master of social and political satire.

Goya was also influenced by the great Spanish writers/poets of the Golden Age such as Miguel de Cervantes (Alcalá de Henares, 1547 - Madrid, 1616) and Francisco Gómez de Quevedo (Madrid, 1580 1 - Ciudad Real, 1645), who freely followed the characteristics of the genre of Menippus satire, taking aim at social and intellectual hierarchies and poking fun at superstition, religious practises and belief in the paranormal. 

Their form of satire was so influential that it became part of the pan-European tradition of humour known as "carnivalesque".

When Goya finally resumed his work, he was a different man - more bitter, more pessimistic about the future of humanity, less tolerant of its weaknesses and yet inspired.

This anxious attitude fired his creative spirit as he prepared for an artistic mission that would make him not only the artist of his time, but also an artist for the ages and arguably the father of modern art.

Los Caprichos (The Whims or The Caprices) illustrate a world in crisis. Conceptually, they reveal the cracks of a socio-political structure based on stagnant class stratification and a value system founded on the immobility of mores and the tyrannical religious suppression of conscience.

Los Caprichos, published in 1799, was his first foray into this new direction. Satirical prints had existed before him, but never before had anyone ventured such a sharp and uncompromising critique of social mores and hypocrisy. 

The eighty plates, measuring about 12 1/2 x 8 3/4 inches, were published in book form at the moderate price of 320 reales in a shop opposite Goya's own house in Madrid's "Calle del Desengano" (Street of Disillusionment). Unsurprisingly, despite Goya's careful and often ambiguous captions, it was not popular in certain circles, and he was forced to stop selling it after only 23 copies were bought. 

In 1803, Goya was harassed by the political right and persecuted by the Inquisition. He was eventually rescued by King Carlos IV who liked Goya personally and was probably too obtuse to realise that he had portrayed him as a bumbling idiot. The King ordered that all unsold sets and the original copper plates be handed over to the Crown and publicly declared that Goya had acted on his instructions, saving him from the Inquisitors.

Los Disparates (The Follies), also known as Proverbios (Proverbs) or Sueños (Dreams), is a series of prints in etching and aquatint, with retouching in drypoint and engraving, created by Goya between 1815 and 1823. He created the series while living in his house near Manzanares (Quinta del Sordo), on whose walls he painted the famous Black Paintings. When he moved to Bordeaux in 1824, he left these works unfinished. During Goya's lifetime, the series was not published due to the repressive political climate and the Inquisition. The series was first published by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in 1864.

The plates of the Disparates are rich in dreamlike visions, violence and sex, mockery of the institutions of the old regime and general criticism of established power. The prints combine a diverse fantasy world related to the night, the carnival and the grotesque, which is both print by print and an enigma in its entirety.

** end **

Resource Books written by
Karla Ingleton Darocas 
and published by