The Francisco Goya show at the Courtauld Gallery displays all of the beautiful, intimate doodles from his Witches and Old Women album. The curator did a really nice job of contextualizing the works within both Goya's life and contemporary events, and the layout and movement of the show flowed very well. It helps that the works themselves are fascinating, containing fantastically observed and invented figures. The representations of sad, even gruesome women can seem harsh, with very little trace of empathy except in the fact of their recording. The viewer also has to contend with the weird intimacy of coming face-to-face with someone else's nightmares and visions. However, it's entirely worth it to see the artistry and imagination. Some of my particular favorites: an intensely insular scene of an old woman at prayer; a Lear-like fool (below right), and a woman dancing frenziedly on her own shadow. I'm sure I'll return, and not just because I live next door.
Technical analysis is always interesting (ok, maybe just to us...), and a number of excellent examples and x-ray discoveries illustrated Reynold's reworking of compositions and re-use of canvases. Still, the show would have benefited from more space and a few more loans for comparison. Small-scale reproductions of other copies or study sheets were included on some of the labels, but in certain cases their absence was striking. Were the loans just impossible to obtain,* or was the Wallace limited by the small size of their exhibition galleries? The show was a great concept, but fell short in the execution. All in all, I'd say it's still worth seeing for the quality of the works and the visual comparisons that are available. And I do want to give major kudos to the Wallace team for their technical research.
I'm buckling down to work this week after the weekend of exhibitions and frolicking in the parks. Stay tuned.
*Not an uncommon problem - this is why our virtual exhibition was so fun; we didn't have to deal with the problems of reality, like works that can't be moved.