Gallery Archive - GOYA The Disparates 12 June 1997 - 12 July 1997
The celebrated eighteenth-century Spanish painter and etcher Francisco Goya (1746 - 1828) was in his seventies and recovering from a serious illness when he made his last great series of powerful etchings, The Disparates. Depicting the folly of mankind, the etchings, produced between 1819 and 1824, are a savage satirical attack on the political and social customs of his time. Unpublished during Goya's lifetime, the etchings were hidden away in Spain after the artist's self-imposed exile to Bordeaux.
Dark in mood and similar to the terrifying 'black paintings' with which he decorated his house, The Disparates were produced while Goya was living in the Quinta del Sordo (The house of the Deaf Man), on the outskirts of Madrid. These are amongst his most disturbing and obscure plates and convey Goya's unsettled state of mind. Spain had returned to a dictatorship after a brief liberal period and many of Goya's works, including a series of macabre etchings titled The Disasters of War, were not published under the oppressive climate of the Inquisition.
Goya emphasises the frenzied, grotesque side of carnival festivity in Bobalicon (Silly idiot), in which a dancing giant drawn from a popular carnival character, is transformed into a disturbing phantom with ghostly faces looming up beside him. In Disparate allegre (Merry folly), a ring of dancers suggests the Dance of Death, the wizened faces of the figures contrasting with the finery of their clothes. In Disparate cruel (Cruel folly), a man strikes another with a lance. The fierce expressions and the decaying wall in the background have been interpreted as the crumbling of order and the onset of barbarism. Other 'Disparates' include old men in monkish disguise, a mysteriously shrouded figure addressing a group of listeners on the branch of a tree and a voluptuous young woman with two heads seized by a prancing horse.
The eighteen prints in the original set were left hidden in Spain after Goya's
flight into exile in 1824. They were first published in 1864 by the Academy
of San Fernando under the title 'Los Proverbios'. But although
some can be related to popular Spanish proverbs, the meaning of others remains
obscure to this day. Proofs of thirteen of the plates bare captions in Goya's
hand, including the word 'Disparate' folly. The exhibition consists
of the complete third edition, published in 1891. A fully illustrated catalogue
accompanies the exhibition.
National Touring Exhibition organised by the Hayward Gallery for the Arts Council of England