The Romanticism of Goya and then his changing style has always been thought-provoking.
Goya uses every pretext to present his figures, not as articulated bodies, but as looming shapes, which are as eloquent in their silhouettes as they are mysterious in their identity and often their actions. There are those menacing silhouettes of shadowy figures which – especially in the prints – loom up in his backgrounds. There are his crowds, which are not a multiplicity of individuals but – even when near to the eye – a sea of faces and bodies in which separate identities are submerged. Above all, there is his use of cloak and cowl. Goya uses drapery, not as other artists use it, as a foil to the free action of the limbs and to the texture of flesh, but to disguise, to submerge, to de-personalize “.
“Yet there is still, surely,The Naked Maya as an affirmation of the Renaissance tradition’s cult of the human body? It celebrates the sexiest skin, the most resilient flesh, the most exquisite suggestion of a line of hair running from the navel down. But the incoherent articulation – the inexplicable incompetence of the drawing of the arms, the impossible position of the breasts, the unconvincing conjunction of the head with the neck – is a virtual denial of the Renaissance tradition’s feeling for the body as a functioning whole, not an assemblage of delicious parts. Goya sees his nude as he sees the women in his portraits – as a doll.”
“His space, moreover, has nothing of the plenitude of Renaissance and Baroque space. It is airless, depth-less, cramping, oppressive: it precludes the very possibility of heroic action. It is full of flying figures.Titan’s figures in flight are solid bodies borne up by the marvellous buoyancy of the space, a space invested with an energy which counteracts gravity. “
“Goya’s space is a lifeless void; the figures float because they have no density. All his figures are weightless: their feet placed on the ground, they do not so much stand on it as brush it, like marionettes. “
The space is like space in dreams, the figures like figures in dreams. The fantastic scenes become nightmarish because they have the quality, the atmosphere, of dreams. And the Royal portrait troupe, say, no less than the witches’ Sabbaths, appears to be happening in a dream…”
“His figures have the jerky movements of puppets, not the expansive actions of heroes/ Goya’s gestures, suddenly – apart from the gestures of his mouths – are ambiguous. Here gesture loses the clarity of a language, and the language of flat shape takes over the main burden of conveying meaning. In a Goya drawing of, say, two men fighting, the drama lies less in how they are seen to act in relation to each other than in the expressiveness of the configuration which their combined forms establish on the page.”
With Goya the mouth dominates the face – and not only the face but the whole body. For, after all, in general painters and sculptors of figure-subjects do not depend primarily on facial expressions to convey the passions animating their actors. Their actors, like actors on a stage who know that their facial expressions are hardly visible beyond the front rows of the stalls, must convey their passions through the gestures of their whole bodies. Goya, however, tends to restrict the body’s expressive role.
Quotes : Excerpted from “About Modern Art“, by David Sylvester
Photographs by Banafsheh . E
Images of the book ( Les Caprices de Goya ) par Jean Adhemar , my own book.