A seventy-seven year old Francisco Goya left Spain for France in 1823; he still held his position as first painter to the court, but even so, with the final triumph of Ferdinand, he had gone into seclusion.
Goya saw Spain once more, during a brief visit in 1826, but he completed his life as a voluntary exile in the Spanish colony of Bordeaux. In these last years, he mellowed a bit. He had experimenting with the newly invented medium of lithography and employed it in 1825 to create a series of five bullfight scenes full of orgiastic vitality, “The Bulls of Bordeaux”. His painting was as fresh, as sparkling, as the happiest work of his youth, and as rich as the best work of his maturity.
Goya visited Paris, and legend says that he was glimpsed in his round of the studios by the young Delacroix. Delacroix became the first true heir. Goya found no followers during his lifetime, but by the middle of the nineteenth-century he had been appropriated as a god of the romantics: not only the painters but such literary figures as Victor Hugo. And he has been adopted on one ground or another as the natural father of successive generations of innovational painters. But, all historical considerations aside, the ultimate question in the case of Goya is a disconcerting and unobvious one: what did he ultimately force us to confront about ourselves?
He has told us that we are egotistical, cruel, superstitious, and willingly deluded. Also, at our best, when we rise to affirm our noble potential, we are most likely to be murdered as individuals. But he believed in one thing, and his work tends to repeat this theme: In spite of everything, to have had the experience of living has been worthwhile, at least more or less. He knew that the opposite side of terrible is the wonderful, and that perhaps the only thing more terrible than life is an alternative composed of an empty nothingness.
He died in 1828 shortly after his eighty-second birthday, in Bordeaux.
Alan Woods: Of all the artists of the 18th and 19th century Goya is the most contemporary – the one who has most to say to us. If it is the task of great art to look below the surface manifestations and lay bare the reality that lies beneath, then this is truly great art. For beneath the thin layer of civilization lie dark forces – forces of ignorance and barbarism – which at critical moments in history can escape their leash and threaten the very fabric of human civilization. This is true, not only for Goya’s epoch but for our own also. This art is an accurate picture of our own world – the world of the first decade of the 21st century.Read More:http://www.marxist.com/ArtAndLiterature-old/goya_2.html a
Why do we find these disturbing images so familiar? In Goya’s time, the old feudal order was falling into decay everywhere. Above all in Spain it had outlived its usefulness and become a terrible obstacle in the way of progress. This obstacle had to be removed by revolutionar
ans if Spain was to advance. At that time, all that was best in Spanish society – all that was alive, honest, intelligent and noble – was fighting to replace the rotten regime of feudal absolutism with a new society. Capitalism at that time signified progress.Read More: http://www.marxist.com/ArtAndLiterature-old/goya_2.html a
But there is still a missing piece; this fascination with death and the supernatural that almost “possessed” Goya and provided much inspiration for the romantic poets; something even deeper than social theory and indignation:
Jesse Bering: And although Sigmund Freud ultimately abandoned this line of thought in favor of the disappointingly more lackluster “wish fulfillment” theory of belief in the afterlife (essentially, the catch-all skeptic’s view that we believe because we want it to be true), even the father of psychoanalysis once started digging in this direction. In his essay “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death,” Freud pondered why young soldiers were so eager to join the ranks during the First World War, and he concluded that this strange glitch of the human mind probably had something to do with it. “Our own death is indeed quite unimaginable,” he wrote, “and whenever we make the attempt to imagine it we can perceive that we really survive as spectators … In the unconscious, every one of us is convinced of his own immortality.”
Camus wrote of an atheistic and materialist doctor in “The Plague” (1947) who once mused on the black fate of his plague-stricken patients: “And I, too, I’m no different. But what matter? Death means nothing to men like me. It’s the event that proves them right.”
We can see now how Camus’ doctor is fundamentally mistaken; given that he won’t be there to confirm his own hypothesis, he’s apparently unaware that such proof remains eternally just out of his reach.