From the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum’s extensive collection of works on paper come the four most celebrated series of etchings by Francisco de Goya (Fuendetodos, Zaragoza, 1746–Bordeaux, France, 1828): Caprichos (80), The Disasters of War (82), Tauromachy (40) and The Follies (22).
Altogether, the exhibition features 224 prints embodying the extraordinary talents of the genius from Aragon, whose work marked something of a watershed in the history of the engraving. Goya executed these series free from the restraint of commissions. His mastery of engraving techniques, combining etching for drawing the composition, aquatint, sometimes burnished, to create effects of light and volume, and burin and dry point for retouching, allowed Goya to unleash a remarkable creative energy rarely seen until then in graphic work.
An essential part of Goya’s body of work, the Caprichos was the first collection of prints he made to be sold as a series. They make an occasionally biting critique of political, religious and social mores of the time. Begun around 1797, they were finished by 1799.
The Disasters of War began to be transferred to plates around 1810, during the Napoleonic invasion of Spain. The vivid impression of the horrors of war and the grim consequences of the worst of the human spirit were captured for posterity in a timeless series in which Goya bears unflinching witness to barbarity and injustice.
Between the drama of The Disasters and the mystery of The Follies came Tauromachy, engraved from 1814 to 1816 as an oasis of emotion provoked by the crises, twists and turns and supreme moments of the bullfighting that Goya so enjoyed.
The Follies or The Proverbs is the most enigmatic series. Posthumously edited without fixed titles, the chronology, ordering and meaning were left undetermined. The series may date from the years 1816 and 1823. The complete series, acquired by the Museum in 2008, belongs to the high quality first edition printed for the Academy.
Our appreciation of this extraordinary set of images, whose originality has intrigued many an avant-garde artist, is enhanced when they are compared with the prints of previous, contemporary and later artists also in the Museum collection. The Museum will be publishing an exhibition catalogue with all the prints on show, accompanied by an essay by José Manuel Matilla, head of the Drawings & Prints Department at the Prado.
In the image:
Francisco de Goya, (Fuendetodos, Zaragoza, 1746-Bordeaux, France, 1828)
El sueño de la razon produce monstruos
Print number 43 from Los Caprichos (1797-1799)
Etching and aquatint, 33,2 x 23,7 cm
Bilbao Fine Arts Museum