Hello from London where the weather is perfect and the museums are bursting with new exhibitions! One of the most anticipated shows of the season has just opened at The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square and that is where I am going to begin.
The seventy paintings assembled here (nearly half of his entire output in this genre), cover the entire span of his portraiture from his first important commission of the Spanish Prime Minister, Count Floridablanca, 1782, painted when he was 37, to his last, loving portrait of his grandchild, Mariano Goya y Goicoechea, circa 1827, shortly before his death at the age of 82.
While, at first glance, some of these pictures may seem a little "off", they always have a unique perspective of the sitter's personality and position in society. Some may criticize Goya's handling of hands or faces or positioning, but each portrayal is a complex psychological study and subtly exposes the subject's attributes and faults.
Goya worked during a time of great political and social unrest in Spain. The French Revolution and the decapitation of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI understandably made the Spanish Royal Family a little nervous. Goya, as Court Painter, was charged with creating portraits that made the King and Queen look human and approachable. Overcoming deafness at the age of 46 and upheavals in government and culture, Goya continued to paint and thrive and remain true to his own ideals. He left a profound body of work that was admired and emulated by such artistic luminaries as Delacroix, Degas, Manet and Picasso and continues to impress to this day.