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Goya Paperback – November 7, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A long life and vast works make fitting subjects for the epic-minded Hughes (The Shock of the New, etc.). Born in Aragon in 1746, Goya weathered the Peninsular Wars (1808-1814) in Spain and lived to the age of 82, when he died in self-imposed exile in France. Hughes denies the popular image of the artist as a die-hard iconoclast, painting court portraits while winking behind his patrons' backs. Staying close to the visual evidence, Hughes shows Goya was not above flattering his royal subjects (aggrandizing midget count Altamira), waxing patriotic (as in the famous Third of May) and taking commissions from the Bonapartes under the French occupation. In middle age he was struck deaf by an unidentifiable illness, at which point his pictures turned darker-a bullfighter gored before eager spectators, the inmates of a madhouse clamoring for respite. His Desastres de la guerra rendered the mute, gaping horror of guerrilla combat. Under a picture of refugees fleeing the French, he inscribed, "I saw it." Whether or not this much debated act of witness really happened, for Hughes it is Goya's urgent visual economy that "invented... the illusion of being there when dreadful things happen." Given his intimate understanding of the painter, one regrets that Hughes's diligent catalogues of the Caprichos and Pinturas Negras (among the 115 color and 100 b&w illustrations) often forgo in-depth analysis for textbook thoroughness. But he compellingly insists on Goya's prophetic genius, arguing that, for an age that has produced few great paintings in response to modern terrors, Goya's pictures anticipate disasters unheard of but yet to arrive.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Australian-born Hughes, art critic for Time and the author of 10 acclaimed books, begins his expert and passionate interpretation of the life and work of the seminal artist Goya with a dramatic account of how, during his recovery from a nearly fatal car crash, he was visited by the great painter in the twilight zone of his pain. This empathic connection with Goya, who suffered his own isolating and debilitating crisis in his mid-forties when a fierce illness left him deaf, enabled Hughes to write a remarkably vital, delectably discursive, and deeply affecting study of an artist whose unique and powerful work grows more significant with each passing year. Goya, Hughes writes, "truly was a realist, one of the first and greatest," but he was also a sly and courageous social critic, creating indelible images of both earthy satire and epic tragedy. Declaring the prolific, "sanguine and ironic" Goya "the last Old Master and the first Modernist," Hughes brings eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Madrid to dynamic life and insightfully dissects every aspect of Goya's ever-evolving paintings and etchings, indelible works that grew steadily darker, more disturbing, and increasingly radical in their indictment of injustice and violence. Hughes' profound appreciation for Goya's genius and "immense humanity" will inspire readers to look to Goya's magnificent, shocking, and clarifying works as to a polestar as we grapple with the inhumanity of our times. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (November 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375711287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375711282
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Hughes was born in Australia in 1938 and has lived in Europe and the United States since 1964. Since 1970 he has worked in New York as an art critic for Time Magazine. He has twice received the Franklin Jeweer Mather Award for Distinguished Criticism from the College Art Association of America.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Throughout history we have examples of biographers so committed to the works of their artist subject that the reporting of the writer seems like the visual becoming oral. Such is the case of James Lord and Giacometti, David Sylvester and Francis Bacon, and now Robert Hughes and Jose de Goya y Lucientes. Hughes new publication entitled simply GOYA is the zenith work in the line of brilliant art history writing, books that include 'The Shock of the New' and 'American Visions' as well as definitive books on artists Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud. His knowledge is both technically sophisticated and psychologically sound and he is a gifted writer in about any métier.

But there is something more to this book than biography. Goya has been important to Hughes throughout his life: his first art purchase as student in Australia was one of the etchings of Goya's `Capricho' series. It wasn't until 1999, when Hughes came close to meeting death from an accident, was in a coma, then gradually recovered through a long series of debilitating therapies, that Hughes was able to overcome his writer's block and actually set about to write the biography of the artist who had become his obsession for years. Hughes admits that it was probably this experience coupled with a vision of Goya himself that made him truly comprehend and incorporate Goya's life of reactionary to the Church, to the absurdity and viciousness of War, to the Inquisition, and to the social injustices he observed. And the interesting parallel of course is that Goya suffered physically not only due to complete deafness, but also to undiagnosed maladies that made his life a trial but did not stop his painting.
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52 of 69 people found the following review helpful By S. Calwas on September 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Anyone searching for a book of Goya reproductions should look elsewhere; nearly all the reproductions here are half-postcard size. But that's not a problem because the book's intent is to describe the artist's life within the context of his time. Unfortunately, it is in that area where the problems lie.

Simply put, the book is poorly written. It is rife with factual inaccuracies and contradictory conclusions. A few of the many examples are:

1) On page 120, in speaking about Goya's group royal portrait of "The Family of Carlos IV," Hughes says: "In 1787-88, when the picture was painted, family groups were distinctly uncommon in Spanish art: Velazquez, for instance, was never once called upon to paint one." In fact, group portraits of the Bourbon royalty were indeed common, such as Louis-Michel Van Loo's portrait "The Family of Philip V" in the Prado. Bourbon family portraits were an intentional departure from the traditional Habsburg royal portraits painted during Velazquez's time. In addition, the reference to Velazquez is confusing and unjustified because Velazquez painted around 150 years before Goya and nowhere near "1787-88, when the picture was painted."

2) On page 131, when conjecturing on whether or not Goya actually fought a bull in his youth, the possibility is dismissed as "a masculine boast easily made in Spain." But by page 351, Hughes has changed his mind and says that Goya "claimed, probably truthfully, that he had fought bulls in his youth."

3) On page 16, the name of Goya's house--the Quinta del Sordo or Deaf Man's Farmhouse--"drew its nickname...from the previous owner, a deaf farmer." But on page 372, he states "the property next door had been owned by a farmer who was deaf" and the name passed to Goya's house when he moved in.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Until about 12 years ago, I thought of Goya as a minor artist who had done few memorable works. Then, I happened to stumble upon a major exhibition of Goya's etchings and aquatints at a Rennes museum in Brittany. I was astonished and compelled by what I saw. Most of the exhibit focused on a theme of antiwar and I wanted to know more. Many people have told me since that it's hard to find good books about Goya's etchings and aquatints. So I picked up this volume hoping to fill the void. My expectations with regard to the etchings and aquatints were more than fulfilled. Thank you, Mr. Hughes.
The book offered me much more. It has very good coverage of all Goya's work and what is known about his personal life. Mr. Hughes also has a wonderful ability to describe a work of art in a way that helps you see it in its historical context . . . rather than just in terms of today. From those perspectives, I became equally enthused about Goya's Caprichos and came to understand more about bullfighting and witches than I ever would have otherwise.
The book has a personal touch to it that is compelling. Mr. Hughes suffered a horrible accident before starting this book and had a lengthy recovery before he could begin the work. All of that frustration seems to have energized him to make the book come to life more than one would have ever thought possible.
The book does have three flaws that you should be aware of before beginning. First, the reproductions are usually quite small. If Mr. Hughes hadn't pointed out the tiny details in many cases, no reader would have been able to discern those details from looking at the pages here. Second, you will probably learn more than you ever wanted to know about the Spanish Bourbons for whom Goya was the court painter.
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