Francisco de Goya at the Norton Simon Museum
In 1963, less than a decade into his extraordinary period of collecting, Norton Simon purchased his first piece by Spanish master Francisco de Goya—an exquisite working proof from his masterful series of etchings and aquatints, called Los Caprichos. The high quality of Goya’s artistic practice inspired Simon to acquire more works by this artist than any other in his collection—nearly 1,400 prints, three paintings and one double-sided drawing.
Born in 1746 in Aragón, a province in northeast Spain, Goya was a product of the Enlightenment, coming of age artistically during a time of intense political change throughout Europe and America. Through his paintings, drawings and most spectacularly in his four defining print series, Goya’s perceptive dialogue with contemporary life is revealed. In his portraits of royal figures and the ruling class, he exhibits a dedication to the conveyance of truth that he believed singularly defined great art. In his prints, those observations reveal greater criticism. In the series Los Caprichos and Los Disparates, the artist tackles issues of morality and social vice. In The Disasters of War, Goya portrays the violence and horror of the Spanish war against Napoleon’s invading army in gruesome images of torture, as well as proud instances of heroism. And in the bullfight series La Tauromaquia, Goya continues to explore his Spanish heritage while probing this thrilling, yet dangerous, form of entertainment.
Simon himself recognized this strength of Goya, his ability to probe into what Simon called “the actions and minds of mankind.” The result of this significant aspect of Goya’s genius is what led to the incredible collection of works by this revered Spanish master now showcased at the Norton Simon Museum.