Goya: The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art

By Fred Licht | Go to book overview

3
Religious
Paintings

Like the tapestry cartoons, Goya's religious works were all painted on commission, and it is very likely that if such commissions had not been forthcoming, Goya would never have produced any sacred works. And just as Goya's cartoons marked the end of a venerable tradition, so his liturgical paintings demonstrated the ambiguous and well‐ nigh impossible survival of what had been the dominant genre of art ever since the fall of the Roman Empire. Of all the many paintings with religious subject matter that were painted during the 19th and 20th centuries, not one can lay claim to being an opus sacra. Even the finest‐ Delacroix's Lamentation or Puvis de Chavannes's Legend of St. Genevieve—moving though they be as works of art or as personal expressions of faith, never had the force to function in the manner of altarpieces—to function, that is, as cynosures of communal worship. The most routine, the most insipid of Rococo altarpieces retained the power to be incorporated unobtrusively and organically into the religious life of the community. Even in those works in which the piety expressed was conventional and without any personal conviction, the traditions of worship and belief were still strong enough to lend them a sound religious dignity that made them viable and integral focal points of liturgy or religious meditation. In Goya's time, this tradition was disrupted, and the most respected branch of Western painting came to a decisive end.

If we speak of Goya as an independent master and not as a gifted purveyor of foreign styles, which is what he still was when he painted the frescoes at Saragossa, the earliest of Goya's important religious works is the monumental Christ on the Cross [16], which he painted in 1780 in order to be received into the Academy of San Fernando, the most prestigious association of artists and connoisseurs in Spain.

Technically, Christ on the Cross is one of the most finished and

-46-

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Goya: The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Goya - The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art *
  • Contents *
  • List of Illustrations 6
  • Preface 9
  • Goya's Life in Brief 10
  • 1 - The Background 14
  • 2 - Tapestry Cartoons 22
  • 3 - Religious Paintings 46
  • 4 - The Family of Charles IV 67
  • 5 - The Maias 83
  • 6 - The Caprichos 92
  • 7 - The Second and Third of Way 104
  • 8 - The Disasters of War 128
  • 9 - The Black Paintings 159
  • 10 - Occasional Paintings 196
  • 11 - Portraits 218
  • 12 - Proletarian Paintings 257
  • Epilogue 274
  • Index 282
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