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Stars of Political Cartooning – Francisco Goya

Each day this month I will be profiling a notable political cartoonist. Since the choices are vast, I’ve decided to slim the numbers down a bit and eliminate living cartoonists. Perhaps I will do a current political cartoon stars in the future.

Here‘s an archive of the artists mentioned already.

Today we look at one of the greatest artists of all time, who also happened to be one of the earliest political cartoonists, as well.

Enjoy!

So yeah, Francisco Goya – do I really need to brief y’all that much on his paintings? Born in 1746, Goya studied painting for years, and in his late twenties, he began making a name for himself in Spain, and ultimately was made a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Art.

He was popular with the royalty, and grew even more popular in the late 1790s, when Charles IV became king. He gave Goya a major court role as a painter.

Goya’s paintings were mostly historical works, with bold colors and a nice little subversive streak.

He is often considered either the last of the Old Masters or the first Modern Master.

Picasso, Manet and many other legends drew inspiration from Goya.

However, the dude also did political cartoons!!!

He did two major sets of cartoons. The first one came in 1792, when Goya (who was sick with fever and had gone deaf) began to study the French Revolution and the philosophies behind it, leading to a series of etched paintings called The Caprichos.

Here are some of them, with their (rather vague, really) captions – they’re pretty dark.

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters

“All will fall”

“Those specks of dust”

“What a tailor can do”

“They have flown”

Later in his life, irked by the horrors being reported from the Peninsular War of the early 19th Century, Goya produced probably his most outright political cartoons, a large set called The Disasters of War.

Sad presentiments of what must come to pass.

With or without reason.

The women give courage.

They avail themselves.

It will be the same.

The same (thing) elsewhere.

Striking work.

Check out a list of the cartoons here (for the Caprichos) and here (for the Disasters of War).

Goya passed away in 1828, a legend in his own time.

6 Comments

Tom Fitzpatrick

October 12, 2008 at 5:41 am

You know, I remember first seeing “The sleep of reason produces monsters” in The Saga of the Swamp Thing (# 24-26, I believe). This was a re-introduction of Jason Blood who bought the print from a antique dealer. Jason Blood is the human alter-ego of the Demon Entrigan as everyone should know.

The Disasters of War, in particular, is a monumental work. The Prado in Madrid did a wonderful exhibition on Goya’s War works which featured most of the series. A powerfully moving experience.

“irked by the horrors being reported from the Penisular War ”

I think you mean “Peninsular” there.

“irked by the horrors being reported from the Penisular War ”

I think you mean “Peninsular” there.

That was funny. ;-)

I studied Goya at school, his work was pretty advanced for the time. I should point out that sueño can mean sleep and dream, so ‘El sueño de la razón produce monstruos’ could also mean the dream of reason produces monsters.

Except that the “dream of reason” would make no sense semantically. The point is that when reason is neglected “monsters” (i.e. ignorant societal reactions) are created and empowered, (the bats etc symbolising ignorance) and that people of reason should speak up. He was writing in a time of cautious enlightenment, but speaking out still often meant exclusion, prison or even execution, so many philosophers at the time were still wary of putting their views across, particularly anti-religious views.

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