March 1, 2021

Goya’s writings in his drawings: intentional, literary and very mysterious | Culture


“Green I want you green…”.
“The dream of the reason produces monsters”.
“I die because I don’t die …”
“Mr money is a powerful gentleman…”.

Four phrases of which it is not necessary to name the author. They are part of the Spanish collective imaginary. They lead to Lorca, Goya, Saint Teresa and Quevedo without effort. One of them is not a writer and yet, with his aphorism about the dream of reason, Goya (Fuendetodos, Zaragoza, 1746 – Bordeaux, 1828) summarizes and reflects his time. An author of statements loaded with content.

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The dream of reason produces monsters (1797-1799).



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The dream of reason produces monsters (1797-1799).

A stroke that this time is in the form of text and not a brushstroke. Verbalize an idea. José Manuel Matilla, Head of Conservation of Drawings and Prints of the Prado Museum and curator of Goya Drawings. “Only the will is left over” (in the art gallery until February 16), he acknowledges that the literary value of synthesis and with a clear intention of the painter’s writings has not yet been analyzed in depth. There is no general study that deals with what I intended with them. They have been treated partially, especially the series of prints, but not those that accompany the drawings. The expert affirms that there are still many pending issues in Goya. But this, in particular, will be used in the future reasoned catalog: “Through a collaborator, a researcher, we will deepen the etymology and the origin of these phrases about everything that has to do with the era of the Whims and from Notebook B [1795-1797]”, Explain.

Your letters are analyzed. Those who write to his childhood friend Martín Zapater portray the less artist Goya, the more personal. In the calligraphy of the painter you can read his thoughts, interests, achievements and the news he gives to the companion he left in Zaragoza and to the one who remains united by his roots, his circles of friends and family. He uses a language full of Aragonese idioms that he never abandoned – also in the texts of the drawings – as well as expressions already missing and of great popularity in the colloquial speech of the 18th century.

But the inscriptions that accompany his prints and drawings are not investigated. A little more of the Whims, Notebook B or Black Borders and the two albums of Bordeaux (G and H). The image is inherent in the text, all are accompanied by these sentences that round it, explain it, finish it or add ambiguity. He creates them on par. They are books of ideas represented both in writing and by drawing lines. In other cases, such as Notebook C, the texts may be added later or not even exist. we must bear in mind that many are preparatory; in these is added on the engraving plate. The epigrams work just like the graphic part, expressing their concerns and interests in them: death, the situation of women, violence, war, the marginalized, old age … In short, the human condition and political, social events and economic that surround it.

There is no consensus to name these phrases. Matilla talks about them colloquially as titles, at least they work like this in the posters of the show, but recognizes that for Goya they never fulfilled this function, they are not what is understood as title, the name of a work. “The English call it captions”, Says the curator (as for the comments that accompany the photos on Instagram, although many of the engravings and drawings created by Goya are far from the spirit of happiness that prevails in this social network). In the catalog cards are considered inscriptions.

'Revenge against Sheriff Lampiños' (1812-20).


‘Revenge against Sheriff Lampiños’ (1812-20).

It remains to be determined the sources from which Goya drinks to build these creations in the form of words. It is known that he met the satirical prints both English and French, where these inscriptions already appear. As every great artist is inspired and then that inspiration makes it his own, what today has been called cultural appropriation and are nothing more than the influences that all creators have. Goya takes some of his newspaper news texts: for example, Death of Sheriff Lampiños, by persecutor of students and women of fortune, those who gave him a lava of quicklime (1812-1820), from Notebook F, an event that must have been sounded at the time. It’s quite likely that he met the newspaper’s writers and journalists The Censor, since they deal with similar issues. It also takes literary references: The yes they pronounce and the hand lengthens the first one that arrives is a whim between 1797 and 1799 that takes a satire of Jovellanos to criticize marriages for interest. The engraving depicts a young woman with a mask who shakes hands with a man much older than her. Several old toothless women accompany the scene, this time the text perfectly complements the image. In addition to this writer he had a relationship with others such as Moratín or Ceán Bermúdez.

The subtlety of a comma

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'Good woman, it seems' (1808-1814).



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‘Good woman, it seems’ (1808-1814).

And despite the unknown part of this painter’s writer, there is no doubt that he knows how to write and knows how to write because he has read. Another aspect that is still to be found out about Goya has to do with his library, whose inventory is unknown. Play with the pen as with the brush, based on details, of subtleties such as the importance of punctuation marks. Hence, the gouache of Notebook C has been corrected, Good muger seems, which has usually been said all the time omitting the score and thus losing the nuance that gives the break that included Goya, Good woman, it seems.

Manuela Mena, the other curator of the exhibition, once said at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum that Goya’s pictorial invoice was economical, clean and precise, “with less get more than others”. He was referring to his brushstroke but it is equally valid for his texts.

If “The dream of reason produces monsters” is inherent in Goya and the Enlightenment, the text that gives name to this sample is pure Goya, pure energy even in old age. It is part of a formal letter to the politician, merchant and editor Joaquín María Ferrer: “… No sight, no pulse, no pen, no inkwell, everything is missing, and only the will is left over.”

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