Thursday, January 20, 2011

Artistic Inspirations: Francisco Goya

nom, nom, nom...
Francisco de Goya, Saturno devorando a su hijo (1819-1823)

Saturn Devouring His Son--from The Black Paintings,
Francisco de Goya [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Francisco Goya is an amazing artist, his work remains incredibly moving, poignant and impactful in ways that most other artists only dream of accomplishing. Goya's work transformed from the socially acceptable art-whoredom of doing portraits for wealthy patrons, to breaking the unspoken rules and doing etchings and drawings and even full paintings of peasants, common folk, and un-pretty people. He also had a raging social conscience and was personally appalled by the insanity and excesses of the French who invaded Spain under Napolean. The brutality, venality, and ferocious eruption of meaningless violence and pointless bloodshed outraged him and he produced a series of etchings as an utter and pointed condemnation of such madness. This series, the Disasters of War, took Goya's life-long artistic knife-fight with the forces of superstition, hypocrisy, ignorance and mindless violence to a whole new level and is every bit as important and impactful as Picasso's Guernica, perhaps moreso, as Goya had to contend with idiot kings, vengeful aristocrats and the Inquisition, while Picasso had fascists and Nazis to worry about. Hmmm. Maybe there's something about facing off against tyranny and oppression that empowers artists? An interesting notion to investigate further in light of the intimate connection between art and sorcery in Riskail.

The Disasters of War is all well and good, but you're probably more familiar with Goya's so-called Black Paintings. The image of Saturn up above, devouring his son like a bit of beef jerky, is one of these weird, creepy and quite frankly macabre paintings. First we'll give you three decent links so that you can go take a look at the Black Paintings. A picture being worth a thousand words, this is roughly 14,000 words worth of description that is best handled by actually seeing the paintings for yourself.

They are rather intriguing, at least to art-nerds like us. Truly if there was only one classic painting that we could use to sum-up Zalchis in a nutshell, it would be this one.
Some (3) Links For The Black Paintings

Wikipedia has some amazingly nice versions of the paintings that you can use on your own site or blog, and they manage to go into some decent detail about the Black Paintings without getting all boring and art-schooly on you, so you might even enjoy reading the entry.

Artchive will give you an online Video Tour of the Black Paintings as they were originally arranged within Goya's house. Yes, he had Saturn Devouring His Sun in the dining room. That detail triggered an assoication with Lovecraft's excellent short story Pickman's Model for some reason...

The NYTimes site has an article that claims to reveal the secret of the Black Paintings.

Those are a good start. If you do a search on Goya or The Black Paintings, you'll be digging through pixels and links for hours. So pack a lunch.

The Black Paintings remain one of the most fascinating and mysterious series of paintings to come out of the Nineteenth Century. Goya is regarded by many as being the first modern artist. His work at the age of 72, at the nadir of his lengthy and remarkable career, came to a close with him daubing oil paints on the walls of his two-story house. He painted images dredged up from the deepest pits of his personal despair and gave form to his fears and nightmares in an act of artistic evocation that had to have been incredibly cathartic just to attempt, let alone achieve as masterfully as he did. The Black Paintings are powerful images of terrible things, horrible things, truly dark and troublesome things that Goya reached deep inside himself to capture and imprison on the walls of his house through sheer mastery of his art alone.

What sort of images would an aging and retiring sorcerer paint on the walls of their apartments down along the seedier alleys and behind the less fashionable galleries and intentionally-decrepit salons off of the Misericorde Canal in Riskail? What kind of paintings would a wizard leave on the walls of their soon-to-be tomb as they lie broken, and alone in the deeper chambers of some nameless place well outside the purview of most sane explorers? What type of things would a lich spend their endless days and non-nights depicting within the dark and dismal depths of a long-forgotten series of catacombs deep beneath the blasted surface of what once was an entire world but is now only a misshapen mass of vitrified stone careening erratically through the Magonic Layer of Zalchis?

Cue The Rolling Stones and Paint It Black...

Not all the Black Paintings are all that dark and dreary. Consider this one, for instance:Vision fantástica o Asmodea (Goya)
Francisco de Goya [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You did see this one in the Video Tour, right?

There is much more to Goya's body of work than just the 14 so-called Black Paintings.

He also did etchings. Lots of etchings.

One set in particular, aside from his magnificent Grotesques, is the Caprichos.
And look; there is an
Ass-Clown in the Caprichos! (more than one, actually...)Goya - Caprichos (39)
From Goya's Caprichos series.

The Caprichos were an experiment by Goya in which he scathingly depicted the universal foibles and follies of society. Goya created a visual commentary that held up the hypocrisy and short-comings of society and all its institutions for ridicule and contempt. The Caprichos were in some respects very similar to highly acerbic political cartoons, after a manner, but far more detailed and ego-skewering than most cartoons could ever hope to be. The etchings were caustic, inflammatory, and controversial. Goya lambasted superstition, mocked the established powers and decried the decline of rationality as it degenerated into a stew of ignorance and aimless viciousness. The etchings that comprise the Caprichos series still pack quite a charge even today. The series of etchings was hastily pulled off the market for fear of reprisal from the Inquisition.

Perhaps we'll develop a version of the Caprichos as some sort of revolutionary deck of cards that mocks conventions whilst delivering a memetic payload of artistically inspired sorcerous mayhem for Riskail...

The most famous of all the Caprichos is undoubtedly Plate 43 of 80 which is known as "The Sleep of Reason Breeds Monsters."

You can see some of Goya's preliminary sketches for this etching at Wikipedia


  1. I have a large print of the Saturn on my wall. It'd probably be off-putting, but people know what they're in for by the time they visit my home.

  2. Very cool! It is a powerful image. You didn't put it in your dining room by any chance, did you? That would be too much for the resident 15-year-old at our domicile. Thanks for dropping by! Hope that higher education is treating you well.


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