By Bruce Chen
Today is St. George’s Day, or Aragon’s Day in Spain. Last year, we received a gift from Cablescom, Hengtong’s subsidiary in Zaragoza, and learned the stories of San Jorge’s killing the dragon and King Peter I’s defeat of Al-Mustain II (Click here for a review:
https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/bsIByifQXy7WqxqignUAvA). Well, how about this year?
The theme of this year’s Aragon’s Day: 275th anniversary of Goya’s birth
Who is Goya?
The Chinese people will not be unfamiliar with “The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid” (or “The Executions”). With sharp contrast of light and dark applied, the painting exudes an expression of daring heroism. In text books, it is always highlighted in the chapters of Romanticism. The painter is the person of today-- Francisco de Goya, Spanish romantic painter and printmaker.
“The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid” (1808)
Born on March 30, 1746, Goya is considered the most important Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, sometimes called the father of modern art. In his early years, Goya spent some of his youth studying painting in Aragon’s Zaragoza. Yes, exactly where Cablescom is located!
”The Clothed Maja” (1798)
Goya served in the Spanish court, where he became completely deaf after suffering from an unknown malady and his style changed somewhat. Consider Beethoven of the same period--maybe great artists are destined for similar suffering? Goya started to care about the wellbeing of the people and the country in a series of his works. In 1808, Napoleon invaded Spain, only to be defeated 6 years later. Having witnessed the war-torn struggle, Goya painted “The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid”, which showed the true human costs of war.
In his final years, Goya explored folly, lust, old age, suffering and death with his grotesque imagery, illustrating the absurdity of the times. He then died on April 16, 1828, in Bordeaux, France, as a great Romanticist artist.
“Two Old Men Eating Soup” (1823)
What is Romanticism?
The Enlightenment of the 18th century brought along democracy in the political arena. While in cultural arena, it resulted in Romanticism which blossomed in the first half of the 19th century Europe. Romanticist paintings incorporate elements of nature, heroism, humanity and emotions, allowing the painters to be free with their paintings and colors and convey their feelings towards their own lives.
“The Raft of the Medusa”, by Theodore Gericault, France, 1819
“La Liberté guidant le people”, by Eugène Delacroix, France, 1830
The Hay Wain”, by John Constable, GB, 1821
Among many Romanticists, Goya was the pioneer that broke the 18th century scientific approach to painting from both fronts of skill and connotation.
Why is Goya relevant today?
In the second half of the 19th century, Romanticism gave way to Realism, including Impressionism, Symbolism and Cubism. In all these styles, Spanish artists had their brands—not only painters. “From painters to architects, sculptors to playwrights, Spain has been the homeland of many famous artists over the centuries.”
The most famous among them is probably Pablo Picasso, Father of the entire Cubist movement. His “Guernica” is recognized a masterpiece of the humanity. Same as Goya’s works, it also paid close attention to the wellbeing of the people. Did Goya, Picasso and others know that many many years later, in the face of a global health Pandemic, their humanistic vision would still be sobering?
“Guernica”, by Picasso, Spain, 1937
Expressing concerns, even in the face of hard times, about the social wellbeing and people’s livelihood with professionalism and excellent works, and thus motivating the people of today and tomorrow to endeavor for a better future—no matter whether you are an artist or an entrepreneur. Maybe this is one of the many things we could learn from Goya, Picasso and the likes of them.
Today, the Aragon’s Day 2021, we celebrate the 275th anniversary of the birth of Francisco de Goya.
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, 1746—1828
(This article has referred to, among other things, the contribution by Cablescom based on the Museo del Prado's photographic archive and the Museum’s collection archive, the Spanish Arts website: www.spanish-art.org, and “History of Western Culture” by Xu Xin.)