For violent spirits the painter is Goya, and also for wavering souls who seek consolation in the violence of others. Where other artists profess to be, he really is, sinister. In his most characteristic inventions it seems as if he deliberately preferred a contemptible subject-matter, the better to wreak his scorn. The horror with which he deals so vividly is never external. He must actually have seen the sordid and fearful visions of the “Caprichos” and the “Desastres de la Guerra.” There is in the British Museum an early drawing which shows a young man, probably Goya himself, dazed and fascinated by obscene faces which come and go. It is a record of dreadful hallucinations gladly accepted. Such visions entirely accord with those mysterious illnesses and depressions which periodically beset the man. He craved the frightful. When in prosperous retirement he set up his own house near Madrid, he decorated it with nightmares discarnate witches riding through the foul air, a demented Saturn gnawing at the mutilated body of his own child. Aside from these more intimate terrors, there is a smouldering quality even about his more normal work of decoration and portraiture. Recall those full-bosomed angels which from church vaults invite an assignation; in his portrait-gallery, those proud, melancholy, and ineffectual men; those moody and ardent women.
To violent spirits he also commends him-self because his horrors are rarely veiled by finesses of workmanship. The color strikes hot and brutal like a blow. There is a preference for murky reds and sulphurous yellows, true colors of the pit. Compare his “Military Execution, May 2, 1808,” in the Prado, with Delacroix’s “Massacre at Scio,” in the Louvre. To the mind, the Frenchman’s subject-matter, with its manifold suggestion of slaughter and rapine, is more terrible. We have a father closing dying eyes upon a dishonored family, young beauty dragged to shame, the war reek running through a paradisiacal countryside. The Spaniard’s subject-matter is simpler and in a way less horrible. A French firing-squad aims pointblank at half a dozen prisoners who totter above the sprawling bodies of those already shot; new victims are being pushed forward awaiting the discharge. Here is no wholesale disaster, but an ordinary incident of a military occupation. Yet the picture appalls more than the reality would. One shrinks from that staring, staggering group and the levelled steel. Everything is brusque, intense, cramped. In comparison the “Massacre” of Delacroix is invested with beauty. Lovely workmanship, human pathos, a sense of persisting natural charm, give something of nobility to a theme in itself dreadful enough. With no lack of energy, the scene is meditative, has style and civilization. Goya’s execution, on the contrary, is completely unpondered and immediate, the execution as coarse as it is expressive, the whole thing as direct and barbaric as a painting in a neolithic cave. In one case we have the work of a man who felt strongly, but also thought much and reverenced tradition; in the other, of a man who felt acutely, though very narrowly, and reverenced nothing past or present.
Legend has been busily at work to construct a figure diabolical enough to justify the work. The earlier biographers, especially Matheron and Yriarte, have drawn the figure of a malcontent revolutionist in the land of the Inquisition, a seducer, bull-fighter, swashbuckler, full of violence, yet with the nobler velleities of the romantic superman. German criticism, especially represented by Valerian von Loga, has attacked the legend and drawn us the picture of an exemplary and hard-working artist, chiefly mindful of the main chance, and providing diabolisms for a public that was willing to pay for them. Goya’s latest biographer, Hugh Stokes, in a very entertaining but possibly too diffuse book, has followed the sensible middle course of presenting all the facts, while giving the legend for what it is worth. He also gives such an account of Goya’s Spain as furnishes a background for the activities of his proud and wrathful spirit. To the springs of this spirit, the legend is the most interesting guide, and, I think, by no means an unfaithful one, but I will choose the more prosaic and gradual approach of the assured facts of Goya’s life and of the inferences that may be drawn from his pictures.
Goya’s native soil, Aragon, goes far to account for him. The proud and independent realm that bore the brunt of the Moorish wars produced rather men of action than artists. Loyal to the kingship, Aragon was ever impatient of control. Against the formidable aggression of the Inquisition she maintained her traditional rights. An impatient, pragmatic, virtually democratic feeling radiated from the half-Moorish capital, Zaragoza. Yet the sentiment was hardheaded. Aragon wished to do as pleased her, and was little affected by abstract enthusiasms. A typical Aragonese is the great prime minister, Aranda, Goya’s friend and patron. Aranda was tinged with the views of the French Enlightenment. He roused the stolid Charles III to curb the Inquisition and to expel the Jesuits. With equal practicality, when his former French friends became the dethroners of kings and the fomenters of plebeian misrule, Aranda set his face resolutely against the Spanish liberalism he had formerly done much to foster.
Goya had much of the temperament of his great friend. He wanted to gratify the immediate need and to be let alone. He was something of a sceptic, doubtless, but kept on terms with the church; he loved liberty, but hated disorder, except of his own making; he was a good royalist, but naturally scornful of the de-basement of an unspeakably corrupt court. These very simple reactions of a vehement and self-willed spirit perfectly explain Goya the satirist, and we have no reason to follow those critics who see in him a youthful Jacobin dwindling into a middle-aged hypocrite. Goya hailed King Joseph Bonaparte quite as sincerely as he loathed the vacillating Ferdinand VII. It was a chance for peace in Spain to change masters. Goya sketched Arthur Wellesley, the real redeemer of Spain, and tried to shoot him in the studio for an imaginary insult. The incident shows how personal were all the springs of Goya’s doings, and how absurd it is to apply to him any sort of philosophico-political label.
Francisco Goya y Lucientes was born in the hamlet of Fuendetodos, near Zaragoza, on March 30, 1746. His father was a peasant risen to the estate of a small tradesman, his mother of gentle stock. When a boy, the legend has it, a benevolent priest found him drawing a pig, a truly prophetic theme for the future author of the “Caprichos,” and had him put at painting. What is certain is that at a tender age, and presumably without much previous education, he was accepted in the free academy of the public-spirited Don Jose Luzany Martinez at Zaragoza. Here he was trained in approved academic fashion, drawing scrupulously after engravings and from the antique. He is said to have remarked of a Madonna he did in the student years : “Yes, it is mine; but don’t tell anybody.” For an impetuous temperament he showed a singular lack of precocity. But this impetuosity was to drive the young provincial far afield. Periodically the partisans of the great miracle church of El Pilar had street fights with the rival parish of La Seo. In one of these brawls, which resulted, besides the usual contusions, in some deaths, young Francisco so prominently captained the champions of Our Lady of the Column that his case came before the Inquisition. His master, who was art censor for that formidable tribunal, doubtless gave the counsel to flee, and young Goya slipped away to Madrid. It was the first of several such flights.
How the nineteen-year-old youth struggled along in the capital we hardly know. His fellow townsman Aranda surely helped him; another Zaragozan, Francisco Bayeu, was a successful court painter, and gave grudging aid.
The great Tiepolo was decorating the ceilings of the palaces, but Goya was no Fragonard to know Tiepolo’s worth. Instead he fell under influences which continued his pseudoclassical schooling. The Bohemian adventurer, Anton Rafael Mengs, took him up. Mengs was an excellent portrait-painter in a somewhat stilted style, but a pedant, intellectually under the thumb of Winckelmann, and just about the worst exemplar Europe could have provided for a genius of Goya’s impetuous type. As a matter of fact, Goya seems to have found his way chiefly by the aid of the old masters in the royal collections. The forthright power of Velasquez captivated him from the first. Doubtless the fantastic exaggerations of El Greco fostered his own dreams. I think he must also have admired the quietly severe naturalism of Zurbaran. When the etchings of Rembrandt came his way is not known, but the effect was permanent. No artist of the true Renaissance tradition seems ever to have won his admiration. This was unfortunate, for he was, after all, absorbing the dregs of the tradition from Bayeu and Mengs. The random student days at Madrid were abruptly closed. One night they found him in an alley with a knife in his back. The brawl apparently was of a sort to interest the Inquisition, and once more Goya fled, this time to Rome. A letter of this time is signed “Francisco de los Toros,” and it is pretty certain that, like many another high-spirited young Spaniard, Goya, now on his way to Rome, proved himself in the bull-ring.
I doubt if the Eternal City has ever harbored a less reverent exile. The gayety of Clement XIV’s early reign gave him subjects for genre pieces, by the sale of which he lived. These have disappeared, perhaps deservedly. By courtesy of the director, Bayeu, he was a student at the Spanish Academy of San Fernando on the Janiculum, but he was probably more interested in the dissipations and rude sports of the Trasteverini below. Certain reckless exploits of his have left their memory. At the risk of his neck, he wrote his name higher on the lantern of St. Peter’s than any previous artist. He must have evinced a certain talent, for the Russian ambassador made overtures. Goya had the sense to decline the patronage of the great Catherine. Shortly after his enforced departure from Rome, he won a second prize in a competition held by the Parma Academy, the subject being the victor Hannibal surveying Italy from the Alps. To enter a nunnery on any pretext without per-mission was a capital offense at Rome, and when Goya was caught within convent walls, he had no better pretext than his desire for a young and charming nun. His neck was more in peril than it had been on the lantern of St. Peter’s, but the intercession of the Spanish ambassador gave the young libertine an option of prompt and perpetual exile, which he naturally accepted. So runs the tradition, and there seems no reason to doubt it. Goya had spent most of the years 1770 and 1771 at Rome. When he returned to Zaragoza, in his twenty-fifth year, it must have seemed that he had put in a ten years’ apprenticeship to very little purpose.
Yet Zaragoza did something for her way-ward son. The chapter of El Pilar accepted an advantageous offer from him to fresco the vaults of the Chapel of the Sacrament. No further commission followed for many years, and Goya presumably made his way by uncongenial work for provincial churches and monasteries. What remains of this religious decoration is mediocre enough in design and garish in color. Some time in his twenty-ninth year, 1775, Goya married Josefa Bayeu, the sister of his old master. It was this new responsibility that forced a second move to Madrid and a more persistent wooing of for-tune. One would wish to know something more of Dona Josefa than is told by her husband’s rather unsympathetic portraiture. How did she take his moods ? What was her attitude toward his frequent and notorious infidelities ? She lived in Oriental detachment from the public and social life of her lord; she was kept pretty busy bearing twenty children, all of whom were of an ailing sort. Only one, the son Xavier, lived to grow up. After all, Dona Josefa may have had sufficient Sturm and Drang at home to ignore the havoc. her gifted spouse was working outside amid aristocratic hearts. Or she may have had the sense to see that the heart was very little involved in these adventures. They lived together nearly thirty years, and the period saw virtually all the greatest work of the master.
His first substantial recognition came gradually and humbly in an appointment as one of several designers for the Royal Tapestry Works in 1776. Mengs had interested him-self in that languishing enterprise. Classicist though he was, he was also shrewd enough to perceive the popular value of Goya’s sprightly, realistic vein. Goya turned off, first and last, more than forty cartoons, most of which are preserved in the Prado. Without exception, these are illustrations of Spanish life-picnics, dances, fairs, peddlers, ball games, kite-flying, a pretty girl swinging, young gentlefolk in vintage time playing at pastoralism -these are some of the subjects. They are carried off with ability, shrewd observation, and gusto. The hackneyed comparison with Watteau and Fragonard does them injustice. They have little poetry, either elegiac or erotic. As pure design, they fall midway between narrative and decoration. The color is usually harsh-mere hints for development by the weavers. The cartoons are perhaps more interesting to the student of Spanish customs than to the art-lover. At least, they tided Goya over while his slow-maturing genius was forming.
Meanwhile he was building up a reputation as a portrait-painter, working in the dry and cautious manner of Mengs and Bayeu, but with a drastic fidelity wholly Spanish. Some-times it seems as if the Spaniards were the only race with sufficient self esteem to endure sincere portraiture. There is in these early portraits of Goya an odd affinity to the juvenile work of the self-trained American Copley.
Society began to take up the free-living young artist. He was welcomed at the country seat of the Infante Don Luis, whose profligacy had banished him from the austere court of Charles III. From his fortieth year he was a welcome guest of the Duke and Duchess of Osuna. The duke and he shot together. The country-seat of Alameda came to own some thirty Goyas, some of which presage the diabolical vein of the “Caprichos.” He painted the premier, Florida Blanca, and the portrait of the old King as a sportsman, reminiscent of and far inferior to a similar canvas by Velasquez, but his repeated petitions for an appointment as court painter were ignored. Goya’s record had not commended him to a martinet sovereign. In these years he made sixteen etchings after the masterpieces of Velasquez, rather fumbling work, but valuable means of study and evidence of a fruitful admiration.
As yet he had done little of lasting worth, though the “Fair of St. Isidro,” painted for the Osunas and now in the Prado, is a marvel of panoramic observation and deft denotation. It was the demoralization of Madrid on the accession of the weak and vicious Charles IV, in 1788, that furnished the opportunity for a drastic portraitist and satirist. Goya was now forty-two years old, in the full energy of early middle life.
From his estimable sire Charles IV inherited nothing except a marked tendency to neglect the business of the realm for shooting birds and hares. He had married the haughty and dissolute Princess of Parma, Maria Luisa. Her minion, the handsome guardsman Manuel Godoy, ruled the land as he willed. The nobility followed the example of sensuality set by the royal pair. “Gallantry and intrigue are terms too refined for this period,” wrote a shrewd English visitor to Madrid in the latter days of the old King. Already Goya had enjoyed recognition from his craft, in an election to the Academy of San Fernando in 1780, and in promotion to its presidency in 1785. After the coronation he was welcomed at the court, and on the first vacancy appointed Painter of the Chamber, with a pension. In ten years he painted a score of portraits of the royal family, including that appalling family group of 1800 in the Prado which is perhaps his best-known work. Upon the booby voluptuary Charles IV and his “Courtesan Queen” it is customary for critics of Goya to direct their most effective phrases. Since the Queen, how-ever freely giving, never sold her favors, the term seems inappropriate, while, as to both, a single glance at a good photograph will tell more than pages of the most accomplished rhetoric. I refrain from following the time-honored precedent, and leave the precious royal pair virtually unberated. The famous family group must occupy us in its turn. Meanwhile, what the King and Queen looked like is told in many portraits, perhaps best in the pair painted about 1790. These full-length canvases are in the Prado, and I hardly know whether most to praise the skill with which the artist has caught the pompous futility of the King, yet reserving for him a certain stereo-typed impressiveness, or the keener insight with which he has revealed the masterful woman haunted by the sense that what has burned so ardently is now burning out. Both portraits have the merit, which Goya seldom lacks, of powerful characterization; both have also the usual defect of regarding the specta for too much; neither is quite finely composed. The painting of the black lace of the Queen’s gown and mantilla, of the colored sashes of the King, is crisp, yet easy. Goya has fully outgrown the rigidities of the Mengs formula. Where the pictures fall short is in a certain provincial emphasis and absence of style. The neighboring Moros, Velasquezes, and Titians in the Prado do not efface them, but leave them looking a little raw.
Goya’s career as a Don Juan reached its height in his forty-sixth year, when he was already a bit lame and deaf, in the classic liaison with the pretty Duchess of Alba. I say “pretty” advisedly, for such is the record he who knew her best has left of her. It was not his first scandal in the high world. Omitting less credible gossip, there is an anecdote of an importunate husband who, to secure a long-delayed portrait of his wife, turned the studio key upon her and the painter. The portrait was achieved on the delighted husband’s return, and a notable addition made to the long list of the painter’s gallantries. In fact, the compliancy of the eighteenth-century Spanish husband is one of the interesting by-products of the Goya legend. It came, so the tradition runs, to the ears of the much-betrayed Duke of Alba that Goya was painting his wife as the “Nude Maja.” The duke threatened and effected an invasion of the studio. In defense of himself and his mistress, Goya started over-night the diaphanous vision of the “Clothed Maja,” and the indignant duke was baffled. The very summary execution of the “Maja Vestida” and the fact that its arrangement seems an improvement over that of the “Maja Desnuda” lend color to the legend, but, first, it is not certain that either Maja was done after the duchess, and, next, it is hard to imagine the state of mind of a patrician husband who was placated at the sight of his wife as the “Clothed Maja.”
For many years after 1782 one will find the imprint of the Duchess of Alba in all the female portraiture of Goya. His sitters seem her sisters. Everybody knows the doll face, distinguished by magnificent black eyes and by its bordering cloud of flowing black hair, the slight arms, full bosom, and waist for which a lace handkerchief were adequate girdle. The simple frocks and falling locks tell that, with all the more sensitive souls of her half-century, the pretty duchess, too, had returned to nature. Perhaps more characteristic, after all, is the little sketch in which, with fan, mantilla, and gracefully turned ankle, she pirouettes on a hilltop and points to a rising thunder cloud. Goya, as a slender and elegant youth -he was then forty-seven-bends attentively toward her with extended arms and uncovered head. One wonders if such exposures confirmed his increasing deafness. No other work of art represents so well the eighteenth-century notion of a grande passion, conducted in the forms, and ennobling by its fervor an approving, circumambient nature. Before Goya there had been various notable bull-fighters, but his too open devotion scandalized even Maria Luisa. The duchess was exiled to her estates in Andalusia in 1793 and took her painter along. Here, amid a nature no longer pictorial but actual, the grand passion soon sunk to mediocrity, at least on her side. Goya bore some grudge, for in certain etchings of the “Caprichos,” which he was preparing in 1795, one may recognize the fickle duchess, once with a double face and again with flickering bats’ wings.
The waning of a passion, deafness, weakened eyesight, years of nervous tension, were the conditions under which the “Caprichos” took form. To compare the set and sour profile which accompanied the famous album with the little sketch of Goya and the pretty duchess before the thundercloud, is instructive. A year or two at most lies between the gallant lover and the grim old man dreaming unhallowed dreams. In the years of discontent and illness following 1793 Goya tossed off scores of these sketches. Soon he began to work them over into etchings, using the new aquatint process to obtain powerful light and shade. Two hundred copies he printed off himself and issued in 1798. This edition comprised seventy-two plates, eight being added later. The French officers in Spain sent copies home, and Goya, till then unknown beyond the Pyrenees, became generally famous as a caricaturist.
In a rejected draft for a prospectus, he declares that he has “chosen subjects which afford opportunities to turn into ridicule and stigmatize those prejudices, impostures, and hypocrisies which have been consecrated by time.” This programme only holds true of what we may call the bestiary portion. The ass is exalted in all his complacent moods, playing human parts; the ape remains the critic of the long-eared hero. A typical picture is the ape painting the portrait of a lolling, crowned donkey, whose mask on the canvas is beginning to assume the lofty traits of the lion -trenchant satire of the function of a court painter. Again a half-human monster with shaggy legs and hoofs reclines on the swinging globe and holds up by the ankles an elated man whose wild eyes fail to see the predecessors discarded and hurtling down through space. The bestial inconsequence of the awards of fortune is the meaning. It is interesting to compare the notion with the mediaeval and wholly mechanical idea of Fortune’s wheel. Dame For-tune was merely ruthless by higher impersonal necessity; Goya’s satyr world-spirit is exultantly malevolent.
More than thirty plates are descriptive of the follies of Madrid life, with especial regard to the courtesans. The mood is generally too mild and tolerant to be called satirical. We have the frail creature pulling up a stocking over a slender leg, buffeted with much lifting of skirts by the blast from the Sierra, spied on by the police, or led pitifully to execution. Usually Goya is on her side; yet the sense of the ineluctable war of sex was also strong in him, and has received its most drastic symbol in the plate representing a harpy on a tree top with feathered men of all estates fluttering about her proud head. The second act is shown at the foot of the tree, where a beatific witch superintends the plucking of one of these male pigeons by two plump and comely wenches. One holds the stripped wing, while the other sets both hands to the tail-feathers. The ignominy of sex obsession has never been put more strongly.
The witch and demon series of the “Caprichos” is the most original and baffling. Here we have fiends-bat-winged, bestial, howling down the wind, clipping each other’s claws; witches clutching each other frantically as they fly, seated in council-the whole repertory of diabolical possession hit off with such gusto and power that one can hardly believe that Goya is merely turning the imposture of witchcraft to ridicule. The plate which leads the Walpurgisnacht series represents a young man with bent head haunted by foul and monstrous faces. The motto is: “When reason dreams monsters rise” (El sue-no de la razon monstruos). Plainly we have Goya indulging hallucination. Indeed, the simplest and possibly the truest explanation of Goya’s diabolism is that he was merely an inverted Blake, seeing foul where Blake saw fair; both hallucinated, and both more or less controlling and utilizing their hallucinations. Yet the witch series was no casual incident in Goya’s work. In old age, when he set up his suburban home, he painted a flight of witches following one who ambiguously fingers a human embryo, and a witches’ Sabbath presided over by a goat-like Satan, with a distinguished lady in fascinated attention. The witch notion was deeply burnt into his mind. Possibly he believed more or less in witchcraft. Malign beliefs are stubborn and persist in sceptics who have renounced consoling faiths. When we recall Goya’s eminently sensual life, and also that demonology in the eighteenth century had sunk to be the accessory of lust, it seems likely enough that a certain amount of experience may have aided nightmare. He was the sort of man who may have dabbled in such orgies as Jacques Casanova records. If so, fascination should mingle with scorn and loathing in these designs, and this is just about the impression they make. No inventions are more instinct with love of the grewsome for its own sake, and the grewsome here has generally a tinge of the filthy. The element of foulness in the “Caprichos,” though implicit rather than overt, is unmistakable.
Whether the artist should stir certain turbid depths of consciousness, or rather whether he should be encouraged in so doing, is an interesting case in theoretical morals. It is hardly a practical case, for the kind of artist who wants this _expression of his lower self cares little whether he be encouraged or not. As a matter of fact, Goya sold off his copies of the “Caprichos” promptly, nor is the fact merely significant of the depravity of Madrid at the end of the eighteenth century. If the turbid depths were to be stirred, at least it was done with masculine energy, with unfailing pith and variety. Personally, I do not think that any robust person is the worse for the peculiar tingling shudder of the “Caprichos,” and I am still more certain that an unrobust person will take little harm from them, since such a person will be immediately revolted.
It was undoubtedly the moral reaction of Hamerton against these designs that made him declare Goya a poor etcher. In a narrow sense that is true. There is little refinement of workmanship in these plates. The line is brittle, the strokes sometimes feverishly overmultiplied, the contrasts extremely harsh, the aqua-tint hurriedly and rather crudely spread over the etched skeleton, the sense of form occasionally pretty weak-in such purely technical regards, the “Caprichos” may be regarded as merely so much bad etching, but bad etching, after all, only as applied to other designs than Goya’s, say, to such caprices as Hamerton would have permitted himself. In much the same sense, the style of Rabelais would be truly bad if imposed upon the thinking of Mat-thew Arnold, and vice versa. If to express meaning is the main thing, then the coarse and direct method of the “Caprichos” has peculiar merits. Its flashing of crude contrasts is sinister. If it recks little of form-and this not always-it gives the keenest impression of character and motion. Those artists who deal in the dynamic _expression of character can find no more accomplished model. Delacroix and Daumier knew what they were about when they went to school with the albums upon which vehement caricaturists have been nurtured ever since. It was no merely foolish or depraved taste that carried the half-Gothic semiobscenities of the “Caprichos” across Europe at the very moment when Louis David was clamping down upon the art of painting the rigid formulas of pseudoclassicism. Goya’s caricatures are hacked out, spat out, with hate and scorn and licking of chops. Whoever can-not stand this kind of art may as well, once for all, be warned away. Others will find value, and even a manner of instruction, in an uprush of temperament so blatantly self-sufficing and, as the course of events proved, so wholly prophetic.
The period of Goya’s greatness as a painter coincides with one of extreme disaster for Spain, the eve and midnight of the Napoleonic wars. He found inspiration alike in the imbecility of his Bourbon patrons and in the rough heroism of such partisan, captains as Juan Martin, solace in the soft comeliness of the Madrilenas and in the more accentuated charms of the actresses of the day. In his decorations for the Church of San Antonio de la Florida his audacious imputation of carnality to the saints and the very angels reaches its height. He had arrived at a fame to which everything was permitted. His portraits from 1795 for fifteen years have the old aggressive accent, but carry themselves with more composure and assurance. To enumerate the best is impossible. Typical examples of his successful portraiture of women are the stiffly posed but vital group of the Countess of Montijo and her four daughters in the Liria Palace, Madrid, a palpitating complex of warm and amiable femininity; the petulant “Bookseller of the Calle de las Carretas”; the self-confident effigy of the actress La Tirana, somewhat stolidly facing the footlights, and, in the collection of Mr. Philip Lehman, New York, a seated portrait of a plump and powdered beauty looking out with due complacency over spreading flounces of loveliest peachy hue and lightness-these are pure Goya. Among male portraits of highest excellence are the arrogant, potent, fleshly face of the toreador Costillares, Goya’s predecessor, rumor insisted, in the graces of the Duchess of Alba; the austere and some-what shrinking figure of the poet Moratin; the ardent, hirsute mask of the patriot Juan Martin; the hawk-like sketch of Arthur Wellesley. These are startling, perturbing, impressive visions-salient, casual, yet significant documents rudely torn from life’s book. The artistry is greater than before, but still not the finest; the accent of civilization is neither sought for nor attained.
Goya was, after all, more than half a caricaturist and illustrator. His power in the latter capacity may best be felt in the episode of the ad of May with which our survey began. His position as a painter in the narrower sense may perhaps most readily be ascertained from a study of the two Majas and of the family group of Charles IV. Thus a few steps in the Prado will inform one, not concerning his diabolism and the vast variety of his invention, but at least as to the pieces which may most fairly meet the inevitable comparison with similar work of the great masters.
That the two Majas were done from the pretty duchess is not certain. They may simply be, like many later works, reminiscent of her charms. Indeed, it is hard to reconcile their customary date, 1799, with her being the sitter. Yet, when it is recalled that she owned the famous “Venus” of Velasquez, it was natural enough that she should wish to have similarly commemorated her own certainly not inferior graces. She and the “Venus” are in any case the starting-point for the Majas, and chronology must reconcile itself with that fact. The “Nude Maja,” rosy from top to toe, balanced consciously upon her silvery cushions, feet brought together with bewitchingly natural awkwardness, head abandoned to the hands clasped behind it, yet directed with provocative appeal toward all the world, hips and breasts thrust forward, is a true eighteenth-century Astarte. In comparison with her, the half-pagan nudities of the ecole galante are ineffectual; only Fragonard, and he exceptionally, has so fully spoken the word of the flesh. The painting is of the most featherlike lightness, and only escapes oversweetness from the sharp carnal flavor of the whole. The criticism of such a picture is difficult, involving eventually the more complex issues where art and morals touch. In the sense that a definite emotion pungently expressed radiates from it, it is a masterpiece. Until lately the authorities shut it away in a private room, showing, if a certain lack of aesthetic courage, a perfectly just sense of moral values. Astarte unveiled will always be a perilous spectacle for those who cannot see life quite steadily and whole. It will not commend the picture to moralists that Manet’s copy of the “Maja Desnuda” solaced the last drug-clouded days of Charles Baudelaire, and moralists have, despite much current sophistry, much to say in the matter.
The place of the “Nude Maja” may best be found by comparing her with other famous nudes. Naturally, the idealism of the Greeks is out of the comparison, but take Titian’s “Danae” or the “Venus Listening to Music” in the same gallery, his “Bacchante” over-come by love and wine, how cosmic, necessary, and noble their animality, after all, is. Velasquez’s plebeian “Venus” has a saving and wholesome athleticism. Manet’s “Olympe,” frankly derivative as she is from the “Maja,” has more suggestion of life and character apart from her professional utility, and is, I think, more beautifully painted. The “Maja” is Orientally soft and specialized, and symbolizes the least significant aspect of sex-symbolizes it quite superbly.
For the reason given by the legend or other-wise, the fancy took Goya to represent the same model in the same pose, lightly clothed in the white linen breeches and bolero of a Spanish dandy. He bettered the composition a little, bringing the frame nearer the figure, and laying the coquettish form more slashingly athwart the oblong. The actual painting is volatile to frothiness. The tinge of vulgarity in the “Nude Maja” is increased in the clothed version. The glance is more insistent, the effect more seductive. Startling and effective the picture is, but the reservations already made apply in higher degree. The Majas embody, after all, just a sportsman’s ideal of a fine woman.
The great portrait group of “Charles IV and His Family” is a more serious matter. It enlisted Goya’s love of reality, his measured admiration, and an almost surer guarantee of a fine picture-his scorn. It is a group of quite magnificent portraits, the painter’s own bulldog face being not the worst, but I cannot regard it as a fine portrait group. The characterization of the individuals is superb, and better modulated than is usual with Goya, who generally imposes his own mood upon all sitters. The domineering turn of the Queen, appropriately the central figure, the sinister stolidity of the King, the skull-like face of an aunt which glowers behind so much frivolous young life, the thoroughly genteel ineptitude of the Crown Prince, the amiable exuberance of the easy-living Luis of Parma and his wife, the precocious sensitiveness of the little Maria Isabella-all this is of Goya’s best. The whole thing vividly suggests the Bourbon incapacity either for learning or forgetting. Few pictures are of higher historic significance. Goya spared no pains upon it. Some of his most admirable sketches were made in preparation. Yet the group would barely hold its own with a family group by Sir Joshua, much less by Copley. It breathes an intenser life, but it lacks unconsciousness and ease. The sense of space is weak in it, as it often is with Goya, the atmosphere is torrid and unbreathable, the color, however varied, is in appearance tarnished. The royal figures have the defect of standing rather awkwardly in unharmonized poses. It is plain that he who greatly values arrangement, style, harmony, mind in painting will think this impressive canvas less than a great masterpiece. He who sets no store by style, but wants merely trenchant notation of casual appearance, may well find his aesthetic law and gospels in the “Charles IV and His Family.” All insurgents against the tradition of the Renaissance have naturally found their warrant in what, if it be not Goya’s masterpiece, at least contains within a single frame a number of masterpieces of drastic portraiture.
The early years of the new century were Goya’s heroic period, full of disaster for him-self and for Spain. In 1804, his fifty-eighth year, his wife died. Most of his intimates were taken away about the same time. Doubly isolated by bereavement and deafness, he continued as court painter of the treacherous Ferdinand VII, who in 1808 ousted his incompetent father. Napoleon’s armies had already overrun the Peninsula, which had reacted in the most bitter and heroic of partisan insurgency. When the old King was. taken away by the French, May 2, 1808, Madrid rose in patriotic if foolish revolt. Murat hurled his “Mamelukes” through the unarmed mob, and the day closed in massacre and the rattle of firing-squads before which the captives were pushed indiscriminately. A few days later a deaf old man made a strange exhibition before a crowd of idlers. Dipping his handkerchief in the mud of the gutter, he sketched on a wall the turbaned horsemen riding down Spanish men and women armed only with the national knife. Whether this was a taunt or a compliment, the sketcher in mud did not say. It is more important to note that it was the first idea for the great canvas now in the Prado. It is a weltering, confused, and ferocious work, overpowering but less significant than its companion piece, the “Military Execution by the French,” which is of steel-like clarity. Late in the year began the terrible siege which ended in the sacking of his native Zaragoza. He visited the smoking ruins, just escaping being shot as a spy on the way. He painted the portrait of the alien King Joseph Bonaparte, and, under orders, selected the pictures to be seized by the conquerors. He absolved the ungrateful commission like a patriot, helping select fifty that would hardly be missed.
The trip to Zaragoza had burned in certain pictures of a ravaged country, and when, in failing health, Goya once more forsook the brush for the etching-needle these impressions took form in the eighty-two plates which were published in 1863, long after his death, by the Academy of San Fernando. There never was an album less academic than “Los Desastres de la Guerra.” It is an unsparing record of actual butchery and rapine. Even in Napoleonic times, which accepted such spectacles as matter of common experience, Goya only dared circulate a few proofs. The reek of the human garbage heap is revealed with an emphasis horrible, yet wholly true, and the actual portrait of clotted bodies with lopped-off limbs, of bawling humans staggering out from under burning rafters, of virgins dragged away by sweating ravishers-the sufficient horror of all this is enhanced by a sense of overruling malignity, of a world delivered over to the vilest and most destructive passions. The “Desastres” is a raw and throbbing bit of life in its basest manifestation, in its least human aspect. When I saw and smelled overturned Messina, I verified the outer veracity of Goya’s picture, but there was dignity in the impersonal awfulness of the catastrophe. Dignity there could not be in the “Desastres de la Guerra.” It is an inferno of the most truthful sordidness. Such a work is profoundly moral or wholly revolting or both, as you choose to take it. The only critical question that fairly arises-for something more or less than art is involved-is that of the artist’s attitude. Was he wholly moved by fierce indignation at the outrage, or did his sinister spirit find also a certain pleasure in the very extravagance of these terrors ? The similarity of certain themes and forms in the “Desastres” to the nightmares which he deliberately contrived for the adornment of his suburban home, and presumably for his own delight, suggests that we should not too readily admit the “Desastres” as in intention a peace document.
The “Desastres” was completed in 1813, Goya’s sixty-seventh year. The remaining fifteen years form an unexpected peaceful epilogue. He became a detached artist. Painting was on the whole in abeyance in favor of etching and, later, of the new art of lithography. In 1818, on the restoration of the despised Ferdinand, Goya seriously considered leaving Spain. Instead, he retired to the little house on the fickle Manzanares, and with his decorations soon made a kind of witches’ kitchen of the new home. A grass-widow second cousin, Leocardia Weiss, became housekeeper, and she brought with her a niece, Rosario, who lived long enough to comfort the painter’s declining days, and developed a certain talent as a miniature painter. In 1815 Goya issued a few copies of the “Bull-Fights,” the “Tauromaquia,” in thirty-three plates. It is done with more care than most of his etchings, and has undiminished vigor. Rembrandt and the more recent Venetian etchers have been studied to good purpose. Everything considered, this is the most desirable of Goya’s albums, though, as the most normal, it is also the least characteristic, and the official edition of 1855, from the Royal Calcografia, is none too good. The twenty-two plates of “Los Proverbios,” eighteen of which were published by the Academy in 1850, is in the main merely a sequel to the “Caprichos.” Still it contains the highly imaginative and even prophetic design of flying men, which, amplified, is also represented by a superb canvas in an American private collection.
When Goya left Madrid for France in 1824, his seventy-eighth year, he probably had no clearer reason than the discontent of a restless and invalid old age and the absence of any real bonds at home. At the Paris salon of 1824 he saw a far more accomplished application of some of his own theories of painting in the landscapes of Constable and in Delacroix’s “Massacre at Scio.” It is of record that he admired the work of the young romantic, and even more that of Baron Gros. Gericault was still the sensation of the hour, and it is strange that Paris paid no especial attention to a visitor whose ways it was rapidly, if unconsciously, adopting. Goya soon withdrew to Bordeaux, where, with occasional absences and visits to Spain, he was a diligent and venerable figure in the Spanish colony for his few remaining years. He took up lithography, and did some splendid large plates of bull-fights; he invented a short way of doing miniatures by smoking the ivory and rubbing a drop of water about with the thumb, and attended to little Rosario’s artistic education. To the impoverished refugees he was a ready benefactor, to his mediocre son Xavier a sagacious counsellor. The turbulent life was to close on a note of ripeness and wisdom. His feeble health and imprudent wanderings caused much anxiety to his intimates, and, when apoplexy carried him off swiftly, on April i6, 1828, in his eighty-third year, it may have been something of a relief. He was buried in the cemetery of the Chartreuse, and his body lay there undisturbed for sixty years, until Spain reclaimed it in 1888. For a generation before the translation, he had been a spiritual leader among all the insurgents against the academic tradition. Delacroix, Daumier, Manet, Regnault, had done him homage, by word and by imitation. He is today, with El Greco, the Spanish master most honored by the emancipated art student.
His primacy as a forerunner of the anti academic revolt is merited, not merely by his practice, but by his few recorded opinions. Nature, Rembrandt, and Velasquez-surely an anti-academic trinity-were avowedly his gods. “Always lines and never body,” he once protested. “But where do we find these lines in nature ? I can only see masses in light, and masses in shadow, planes which recede, reliefs or backgrounds.” Here we have virtually the programme of Couture. Yet Goya fell short of the modern notion of construction in pure color. His own color is not quite organic, but conceived as light and shade. “In nature color does not exist any more than line,” he told a friend. “There is but the sun and the shadows. Give me a piece of charcoal, and I will make you a picture.” Evidently he had advanced only half-way toward Manet. His vindication of the artist’s freedom of invention, conveyed in a discarded preface to the “Caprichos,” allies him to the artistic movements of to-day. Imitation of nature is difficult and admirable, but let us also admire “a method which leaves nature out of the question and reveals to our eyes forms and movements existing only in the imagination. . . . The artist must be allowed the title of inventor, and ceases to be a mere servile copyist.”
This is the modern note. It naturally met opposition from those to whom modernism is anathema. Ruskin in 187z found a fine copy of the “Caprichos” at F. S. Ellis’s, the book-seller’s, besought him to burn the accursed thing, and was obeyed. Hamerton visited the Goya exhibition at Paris in 1878, and hurried home to write that the Spaniard had a foul mind, had risen to notoriety chiefly from his legend as a revolutionist, and delivered the more telling thrust that he was a slovenly and rather incompetent etcher. Both parties, each from its own point of view-the modernists and the authors of Modern Painters and The Intellectual Life-are right.
We may best reconcile the contradiction by inquiring where lies the value of Goya’s work. Surely not in the execution, which is often slack. Goya seldom shows fine arrangement; he cared nothing about it. His draftsmanship is at times negligent, his color seldom harmonized, and frequently rather hot and stuffy. The value of his work must then lie in the sheer turbulent emotion that begot it, which some-times contains much that is morally question-able. And this prompts the further inquiry, Where lies the value of art in general ?-a question easier to set than to answer. Yet a tentative answer must be essayed unless we are to leave all criticism the mere play of contending temperaments. It will probably be agreed that the creative act-and naturally its appreciation as well-includes two elements, one of expansive impulse and one of restrictive discipline, and that the supreme work of art grows out of a just fusion of these two elements. Artists may be classed as they approach one or the other extreme. In some-Raphael, Vermeer, Velasquez-the discipline is so patent that the impulse may seem weak and defective, but it is there all the same. In others, as Tintoretto and Rembrandt, the impulse is so evident that discipline seems absent, but all the same it is there. Only a few artists, like Rubens and Titian, arrive at a serene balance of the two elements, and the tragedy of some of the noblest works of art, Michelangelo’s and the best of Rodin’s, lies precisely in the tenseness and instability of the equilibrium between the expansive and restrictive mood.
Whether we should choose for impulse or discipline seems to me an idle issue. Impulse utterly without discipline is mere formless fury or febrile vaporing, while discipline wholly uninformed by impulse is, if conceivable, wholly void and negligible, mere dusty algebra of the mechanical mind.
As for Goya, he plainly belongs pretty far up or down, as you choose to put it, on the side of impulse. There is a minimum of discipline about him. He has the obvious faults of insurgency when untempered by tradition. His eminent literary congener, Byron-and in many respects Goya is the most Byronic of painters -had more of saving historic sense. His insurgency was more central and less provincial. This is not to say that Goya is not a large and significant figure. He felt tremendously, and this is value. We must beware of considering the artist as a satisfactory ratio. It is true that in the finest art discipline will carry creation a remove from life, or, rather, will ally it with the more disciplined forms of life. Goya’s art is never at this remove. Its lurid orbit swings in the perilous border-line where art and raw life meet. This unhallowed limbo has no more distinguished denizen than Francisco Goya, and, because his art arises largely from confusion and revolt, it will always excite; even where it does not satisfy, it will instruct, not on the terms of the balanced artists, but with a hurtling emphasis all its own. In his waiver of civilization he was true to his peasant blood and to his Spanish breeding. He may be regarded merely as an inversion of those seventeenth-century artists who filled Spain with agonized Christs and tortured martyrs. Diabolize one of these early masters, deprive him of the leading of the church, turn him loose in a disordered and despicable Spain, energize him more highly, and you will have something very like the insolent master of Zaragoza. To produce a central art Spain has never yet attained adequate civilization. Her triumphs are legitimately read in the aristocratic individualism of Velasquez, in the grotesque fantasy of El Greco, in the turbulent emotionalism of Goya. That he was not unworthy of the great predecessors whom he venerated is surely praise enough for him.