SMU’s Meadows Museum kicks off 50th anniversary with major survey of Goya prints

Francisco de Goya, 'The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters,'  Los Caprichos, SMU Meadows Museum. Photo by Michael Bodycomb

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828). Los Caprichos. The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. Plate No. 43, 1797-98. Etching and burnished aquatint on paper. Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Algur H. Meadows Collection, MM.67.06.43. Photo by Michael Bodycomb.

SMU’s Meadows Museum launches its 50th anniversary year with a major exhibition of all its holdings of printed works by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828): all 222 etchings, four lithographs, and three trial proofs.

On view through Sunday, March 1, 2015, Goya: A Lifetime of Graphic Invention provides visitors with a rare opportunity to view complete first-edition sets of Goya’s four great print series – Los Caprichos (The Caprices, 1799), Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War, 1810-19), La Tauromaquia (Bullfighting, 1816), and Los Disparates (The Follies, 1815-23) – as well as the Museum’s holdings of Goya’s paintings, which will be displayed alongside the prints.

Curated by Meadows/Kress/Prado Fellow Alexandra Letvin, the exhibition, which opened Sept. 21, also features the Museum’s recent gift of a trial proof from Los Disparates, Disparate Puntual (Punctual Folly), and closely follows the Meadows’ acquisition of Portrait of Mariano Goya (1827), one of the artist’s final paintings, in 2013.

The Meadows houses one of the largest public collections of Goya’s works in the United States, and the exhibition will enable visitors to experience for the first time the Museum’s extensive Goya holdings at once.

“Goya’s mastery in prints marked a turning point in the evolution of graphic art and had a profound influence on the work of later artists, such as Manet and Picasso,” says Mark Roglán, the Linda P. and William A. Custard Director of the Meadows Museum and Centennial Chair in the Meadows School of the Arts. “As the Meadows Museum’s collection is one of the largest depositories of Goya’s works – including the recent acquisition of a late portrait of his grandson, which was a gift in honor of our anniversary – it seems appropriate to kick off the celebration with an exhibition of his genius.”

Goya, widely regarded as one of the most important artists in Western history, represents both the culmination of the Old Master tradition and the beginning of modernity. A witness to decades of political upheaval and social unrest, he began experimenting with printmaking in the late 1770s. The most ambitious endeavor of his early career was a group of 11 etchings (1599-1660) after paintings by Diego Velázquez housed in the Spanish Royal Collection, three of which will be featured in the exhibition alongside other examples of Goya’s early prints, including a rare trial proof for an unpublished etching.

Shortly thereafter, following an illness that left him permanently deaf, Goya produced 28 drawings titled Sueños (Dreams), which formed the initial core and inspiration for the artist’s first large-scale print series, Los Caprichos. These 80 aquatint etchings engage a variety of themes – including the complex relationship between men and women, ignorance, superstitious beliefs, and witchcraft – and offer a view of human weakness and irrationality that is both deeply personal and imbued with critical social commentary.

“Over the course of his career, Goya produced almost 300 etchings and lithographs that reveal his personal vision, tireless invention, and enthusiasm for technical experimentation,” said Roglán. “This exhibition presents his printed oeuvre as an integral – indeed, defining – component of his life and career, and invites visitors to experience the Museum’s paintings by Goya in the context of his lifelong engagement with printmaking.”

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