The Gruesome World According to Goya | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 13.07.2005
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The Gruesome World According to Goya

He lived in the 1800s, and painted scenes reminiscent of the eeriness of a David Lynch movie. Now, for the first time in a German-speaking country, the work of Francisco de Goya is on impressive display in Berlin.


Goya is considered to have been ahead of his time

The artist sprawls in a slumber across his table, while behind his back demonic animals rise above him. The etching, entitled "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters", is a self portrait and forms part of what is probably Goya's best-known series of eight plates, designed as a criticism of "human errors and vices."

It was images like this that moved the organizers of the Berlin show to try and stage it in the first place. And the process has been arduous. It has taken more than 10 years to bring Goya to Berlin, where he is now the protagonist of a high-profile exhibition called "Goya: Prophet of the Modern."

Ausstellung Goya in Berlin

A catalogue of twisted images

Curator Moritz Wullen says Goya was a century ahead of his time, experimenting with symbolism, expressionism and surrealism and thus triggering the "original explosion of modernism."

Limited visitor capacity

Berlin is hoping that the show's uniqueness will pull crowds in the same volume as the New York Museum of Modern Art exhibition staged in Berlin last year. More than a million visitors came to see the MoMa collection, bringing 6.5 million euros ($7.8 million) with them.

City hotels are doing their bit to drum up interest for the Spanish master, with special offers combining accommodation, entry into the gallery and a catalogue, and private bus companies are offering special trips to the Berlin gallery.

Bildgalerie Goya: Bild 2 Hexenflug

Francisco de Goya, Flight of the Witches 1797/98

Wullen is a little surprised at the level of interest and has expressed his reservations about trying to repeat the successful MoMa show, for reasons of space, if nothing else.

The gallery is comparably small and would struggle to accommodate 1,000 visitors an hour. "The pictures would fall off the walls," Wullen said.

While thronging crowds are a daunting prospect, Wullen said he can understand the interest, as it is only now that Goya can really begin to be understood.

He said it takes modern eyes fed on a diet of horror films to comprehend the artist's apocalyptic visions of sorcerers and double-faced ghosts. "If Goya had lived two hundred years later, he would have been making films," Wullen said.

Colorful past

But during his lifetime spanning 1746 - 1828, Goya was the son of an artisan, and earned his crust by painting portraits, idyllic country parties and still-life compositions.

Ausstellung Goya in Berlin

Francisco de Goya, The Parasol 1777

The quality of his work made him much sought after and he enjoyed a varied and colorful career which included his appointment to the position of First Court Painter to Charles IV in 1799.

By then however, the painter had been left deaf by a mysterious illness. It was an affliction which was to change his life and his work, giving rise to the dark exploration of social and psychological themes for which he became so well-known.

The Goya exhibition runs at Berlin's Alte Nationalgalerie until October 3.

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