Goya in Black and White

Curator: Stephanie Loeb Stepanek, Curator Emeritus of Prints and Drawings

Number of Objects: Approximately 70

Comprised of prints from the MFA’s renowned collection of works by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya (1746–1828), the exhibition explores grand themes of war and revolution, as well as more intimate aspects of the human condition. Goya’s subject matter—directly critical or slyly satirical—frequently addresses the extremes of human behavior and emotion. One of the titans of European art, the Spanish master examined opposites—black and white, night and day—to better understand and express the range and nuances of experience.

Court painter to four kings of Spain and a prolific portrait painter, Goya turned to printmaking to augment his finances, to advertise his artistic talents, to educate and produce propaganda, and to stimulate his creative energies. He made four major print series—Caprichos, Disasters of War, Tauromaquia, and Disparates—with the intention of exposing personal and institutional folly, and the terrors associated with the violence of war. In Goya’s prints, the deep black of etched lines and the white glow of paper are expressive vehicles for accentuating moments of heightened emotion or historical consequence. Goya also made drawings in series, and his extended sequences on paper can be viewed as philosophical essays of the Enlightenment, in visual form.

The exhibition features prints from Goya’s four major print series, as well as prints after Velázquez; “The Bulls of Bordeaux” lithographs; and the spectacular, rare aquatint Seated Giant, a landmark in art history and a prime example of the tension between night and day, power and paralysis, that characterizes Goya’s work. Also included are rare trial proofs for the prints and first-edition impressions, with examples showing Goya’s working methods as he developed an idea from drawing to proof to final state.

For more information, please contact travelingexhibitions@mfa.org.