After the experience of Olularte, the Museo Ibáñez in Olula del Río is once again taking art to the streets. This time it is Francisco de Goya who has been chosen. A selection of his Caprichos is exhibited on large-format metal panels, designed for the occasion, in the plaza of the City of Culture, next to the Pérez Siquier Centre and the monumental sculpture Mujer del Almanzora by Antonio López.
For this intervention, the museum in Olla has digitised at high resolution, using the most advanced technology, the original engravings by Goya that it has in its permanent collection. This has made it possible to record all the technical information of these prodigious works and to make enlargements fifty times the size of the original without losing the quality of Goya’s drawings, their disturbing perfection and his extraordinary capacity for invention, which is extremely rich and inexhaustible.
Together with the self-portrait that serves as the frontispiece, twenty images have been chosen from the series of Los Caprichos, perhaps the most famous set in the entire history of Spanish engraving, and details of them are presented without losing the discourse and narrative of each one of them. The engravings chosen belong to the most grotesque and satirical in the series, where the use of caricature and deformation serves the author to criticise the most involutionary aspects of the power and society of his time, which to some extent are still in force today. Goya is a highly topical, universal and inexhaustible artist.
The large reproductions, which are of extraordinary quality, allow us to contemplate for the first time the primness and precision of Goya’s etching technique. Characters that in the original engravings measure just a few centimetres are now admired at a gigantic size, almost two metres, revealing the author’s virtuoso draughtsmanship with the burin, stroke by stroke, his incisive and merciless gaze and his prodigious ability to create images of great expressiveness and expressionist beauty.
The works on display are: El si pronuncian y la mano alargan al primero que llega, Están calientes, Todos caerán, No hubo remedio, Ya tienen asiento, De que mal morirá?, Hilan delgado, Mucho hay que chupar, Corrección, Duendecitos, Los Chinchillas, Se repulen, Que pico de oro!, El vergonzoso, Hasta la muerte, Trágala perro, Y aún no se van!, Sopla, Unos a otros and Nadie nos ha visto.
Executed between 1797 and 1799, these are a set of eighty etchings in which Goya uses satire, caricature and grotesque images to criticise Spanish society under the Ancien Régime from an enlightened point of view. Many of the themes depicted here and their ideological and intellectual inspiration stem from the artist’s relationship with the great Enlightenment writers and thinkers of Spain at the time, principally Moratín, Saavedra and Jovellanos.
The Caprichos are a monumental work by a decisive author in the history of Western art. In them we can appreciate the birth of a new epoch; the contemporary world. They are produced after the dangerous illness he suffered between 1792 and 1793 in Cadiz, at the home of his friend Sebastián Martínez, from which he miraculously survived and was left completely deaf. From this experience a new Goya was born, unafraid to give free rein to his creative genius, to his fascinating imagination and thought. Until then he had been a courtly artist in the service of power; from now on he would create a personal work on his own initiative, without any commission, truly disturbing and capable of undermining the foundations of what had been understood until then as art and its mission in the world. In this context, the term “Caprice” refers to exactly that; the work that is born from the will and freedom of choice of the artist.
The first germ for Los Caprichos is to be found in the first two sketchbooks, known as the Álbum de Sanlúcar and Álbum de Madrid, produced around 1796. This was followed by a set of preparatory drawings that Goya called “Dreams” for several engravings, the frontispiece of which would be “The Dream of Reason Produces Monsters”. Goya began to engrave and the series grew larger and larger, until it reached eighty images. Finally he made a different grouping and sequence, apparently more disorderly and with the intention of misleading – this also includes some of the titles chosen – and put them on sale in 1799, using as the cover his self-portrait in profile, where he looks inquisitively at the world out of the corner of his eye, a true warning to sailors of what was to follow.
The sale of the engraved notebooks, three hundred copies, was announced in the Diario de Madrid on 6 February 1799 with a text-manifesto in which the author gave a literary explanation of his intentions. It was specified that they could be purchased at the liquor shop at Calle Desengaño nº 1, the same address where Goya had his studio and home on the upper floors. Fourteen days later he had to withdraw them from sale after being denounced by the Inquisition. Several years later, in 1803, he donated the unsold plates and notebooks to the king in order to protect the work and safeguard it from the Inquisition.
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