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: Late Masterpiece by Francisco Goya Added to Institute's Collection


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Francisco Goya's Self Portrait with Doctor Arrieta, an oil painting, of the Spanish master's late period, showing him in the care of his physician, has recently been added to the Institute's permanent collection through the Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund. The double portrait was painted in 1820 shortly after Goya's recovery from a serious illness in his seventy-third year and dedicated to his doctor in gratitude for the care which saved his life. It comes to the Institute after having been in the Arrieta and Martinez collections in Madrid and the de Ajuria Temple and Lucas Moreno collections in Paris.The Arrieta portrait shows Goya in the extremities of his illness being attended by his devoted physician. His head tips back as Arrieta, left arm over his shoulder, steadies him in his upright position. The artist's pale, uncertain hands grasp the bed covers seeking further support as the doctor gently urges him to drink from a glass of medicine. Three figures appear in the background: on the extreme left a priest, behind him the head and hands of a person whose hair and highlighted collar suggest a woman (possibly Goya's cousin and housekeeper, Leocadia Weiss), and on the right a mysterious figure with open mouth, perhaps a symbol of death. The dedication, introduced at the base of the canvas in the manner of Spanish votive painting, reads: “Goya thanks his friend Arrieta for the sureness and care with which he saved his life from the serious and dangerous illness suffered at the end of the year 1819 at the age of seventy three. Painted in 1820.”Except for the strong highlights in the folds of the artist's white shirt and the doctor's ruff, the principal colors of the figures—muted reds, greens, and violets—are so fused as to create the effect of an enveloping atmosphere which at once draws one into the scene and creates a mood deeply expressive of the artist's personal suffering. Within this field of subtly chosen, echoing colors, awareness of his critical condition is heightened both by the contrast between his pallid complexion and the healthy face of the doctor, and by the expressionistic treatment of Goya's night dress, painted with heavy, vigorous, open brush strokes in contrast to the filmy smoothness of the other clothing. The faces, each in its separate way, have a living, mobile quality, filled with the possibility of movement and changing expression. The characterization, both of personality and state of mind, is particularly clear. One feels the calm of the doctor's temperament, his sure knowledge and his sensitive concern for the aged patient, as much as the artist's exhaustion and helplessness which has carried him close to resignation. The work, one of the most intimate and personal of Goya's self portraits, expresses with the greatest sincerity and frankness, the recollected image of himself under extreme duress.Goya's life began in the village of Fuendetodos, near Saragossa, Aragón, on March 30, 1746. His father was a guilder and a mother a member of the Aragonese nobility. Little is known of his youth although he seems to have impressed the elders of Fuendetodos as “wild and mischievous.” Because of his father's trade he probably came early into contact with artists. At 14 he was apprenticed to one of the good painters in Saragossa, José Luján y Martínez, who had studied in Naples. Although Saragossa had unusual artistic resources for a provincial capital, Goya set his sights on Madrid and entered a competition for a scholarship at the San Fernando Academy. In this, as in his first several competitions, he failed.By 1775 he was married to Josefa Bayeu, sister of the painter, Francisco Bayeu, who helped Goya receive his first state commission—a cartoon, for the Royal Manufacture of Tapestries, then under the direction of the neo-classic painter, Raphael Mengs. During the next six years he made over 40 cartoons for tapestries for the royal palaces of Aranjuez, the Escorial, and the Pardo, following the style of Venetian genre painting but selecting his themes from everyday Spanish life, and interpreting them with humor and a deep sympathy for the common people. During this period Goya first discovered the work of Velázquez and made etchings of a number of his most famous paintings. The effect of these studies of the seventeenth-century master on Goya's work was a new interest in light and atmosphere and a greater subtlety of execution.Although Goya was received with warm appreciation by the Royal Family of Charles III of 1779, his petition the same year to become Court Painter was refused. He was already a member of the Academy of San Fernando, and by 1785 he had become its Assistant Director, working at the same time on decorations for the country house of the Duke and Duchess of Osuna and painting many portraits of aristocrats. His ambition to become court painter was finally realized shortly after the accession of Charles IV in 1788.The year 1792 marks a major turning point in his career. A few years earlier, when he was 41, he had written his boyhood friend, Martín Zapater, that he found himself growing old “with many wrinkles so that you could not recognize me except by the snub nose and deepset eyes.” In 1792 a serious illness led to nervous disorders and the complete loss of his hearing. Shut off from conversation, music and denied his passion for the theatre, he became bitter and introspective. The robust gayety of his early work disappeared and was replaced by the viewpoint and mood of the social critic.The famous series of drawings and copper-plate prints known as the Caprichos, of which the Institute's print collection has a complete set, were created during the five years immediately following his illness. The Caprichos, universally recognized as one of the great monuments of Spanish culture, whose powerful interpretation of the irrationalities in Spanish life influenced later masters from Delacroix to Orozco, were Goya's challenge to the medieval forces of ignorance and superstition in the Spain of his time. “In them,” as Daniel Catton Rich has stated, “rebel replaces the courtier, to emerge as one of the world's greatest graphic artists.”Goya continued his court painting during the latter part of the reign of Charles IV and his dissolute Queen, Maria Luisa of Parma. His official portraits at this time show a growing interest in light and atmosphere, inspired by Velázquez and Rembrandt. At the same time his deepening interest in the life of the people is revealed in drawings of workers and peasants and the brilliant narrative series on the capture of the bandit, Margato. In these works his technique, based on rough, short pen and brush strokes, moves steadily away from the light, flat, wash manner of his earlier period and this development is paralleled by increasing ingenuity of composition, command of subject and vigor of execution.Goya remained in Madrid during the violent four year period of the French occupation (1808-1812). With the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1814, Goya withdrew to the “Quinta del Sordo,” (House of the Deaf Man), his small villa in Madrid on the far side of the Manzanares. Here, alone except for his housekeeper, the faithful Leocadia Weiss, and her small daughter, he continued working for thirteen years, realizing some of his greatest works as a portraitist, graphic artist and mural painter.It was toward the end of this period that he became seriously ill again and his life was saved by the care of Dr. Arrieta. In 1824, at the age of 78, a year after the French troops recrossed the border to repress fresh uprisings of the population, Goya petitioned the king for leave to take a cure at Piombières, in France. He went to Bordeaux and Paris, returning to Spain in 1826 only to ask for a new leave, which was granted. His last two years were spent peacefully in Bordeaux in the home of his former housekeeper, where he continued working, visiting the local academy and observing the life of the French city. There he produced his four famous bullfight scenes, his last graphic work and only prints in the newly invented lithographic medium. He died, while awaiting the visit of his only son, Javier, on April 16, 1828.When Goya painted his self portrait with Dr. Arrieta, shortly after his recovery from his grave illness, he had been living in the “Quinta del Sordo,” approximately ten years. His wife had died in 1811. The dark shadow of the Bourbon restoration, which brought the reactionary Ferdinand VII to the throne, and which had forced the exile of imprisonment of many of the artist's liberal and constitutionalist friends, had fallen over Spain. It was during this period that Goya, embittered, but still vigorous in spite of his seventy years, drew and etched many of the plates for his famous series on the Disasters of War, the Tauromachia, and the Desparates (“uncanny, strange things”). Here also he painted the series of 14 fantastic murals on cruelty and witchcraft, based on Biblical, allegorical and genre themes, including the famous picture of Saturn devouring one of his own children, which remains one of his most memorable and important works. He continued his portrait painting as First Court Painter, but there is a noticeable change from the sophisticated and polished style which characterized his official portraits of the period before 1790. Instead of the rococo manner of gracefulness “dependent on a pictorial sense of continuous smooth variation” as José López-Rey has shown in his essay, “On Goya's Legend and Life,” there is new emphasis on volume “by means of a broader modelling and highlights, with the result that the accent is on the sitter's individuality rather than their generic human grace.” This tendency, which found expression even in his portrait of Ferdinand VII, where the false character of the king comes out clearly, was paralleled by the growing freedom of Goya's art as an expression of his own mind and personality, a tendency, as André Malraux has stated, towards the primacy of paint over representation, the right to draw and paint to express oneself, not to create illusions—a tendency which prefigures all modern art and which gives Goya his commanding position at the beginnings of the modern tradition.Both tendencies are combined in the Arrieta portrait. The picture of the artist is more than a conventional representation of a figure on a sick bed with his doctor. It is a projection of a state of mind and physical condition, personal, unique, and without conformity to social or cultural fashion. The homely setting, the informal clothing and the presence of the doctor actually ministering to him reinforce this change from the idealized to the independent point of view. At the same time the atmospheric treatment and the use of open brushwork kindle forms which begin to live their own life and contribute to the effect of a self-sufficient artistic reality. Yet the picture remains dominantly a portrait derived from human experience and projecting the emotional context of that experience with great sincerity and intensity.With the purchase of the Arrieta portrait, the Institute adds a truly great work of art to its permanent collection. Both as a deeply personal expression of the genius of a major European artist in one of his most creative periods and in its emotional force it is a fitting companion to two other masterpieces in the collection, El Greco's Expulsion of the Money Changers from the Temple and Rembrandt's Lucretia. Its acquisition is important in another respect. As Goya, today, is considered by many to be the first great figure of the modern age in art, it represents an important milestone in the Institute's growing documentation of the last century and a half of the Western artistic heritage.Referenced Works of Art
  1. Francisco Goya: Self portrait. Detail from Self Portrait with Doctor Arrieta 1820. Oil on canvas. Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund.
  2. Francisco Goya: Self Portrait with Doctor Arrieta 1820. Oil on canvas, 45 1/2” x 31”. Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund.
  3. Francisco Goya: Self Portrait with Doctor Arrieta (detail) 1820. Oil on canvas. Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund.
  4. Francisco Goya: the artist's hands. Detail from Self Portrait with Doctor Arrieta 1820. Oil on canvas. Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund.
  5. Francisco Goya: Self Portrait. Frontispiece to the Caprichos. About 1797. Aquatint and etching, second state, 5 3/8” x 4 3/8”. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
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Source: "Late Masterpiece by Francisco Goya Added to Institute's Collection," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 42, no. 23 (June, 1953): 110-116.
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Added to Site: March 10, 2009