G is for Goya, Guernica, Gaugin and van Gogh (AtoZChallenge)



This portrait of the Spanish painter, Goya by Vicente Lopez Portaña was completed in 1826. Though it’s in the collection of the Prado Museum in Madrid, I don’t remember seeing it… Hardly surprising considering just how overwhelming that museum is. 

It has been said that Goya was the last of the great masters and the first of the modern painters which makes him a transition, of sorts. (If you haven’t been following along this month, my theme for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge is Travel, Transitions, and Transformations… ).



I’m including this painting by Goya because of its title, The Second of May, 1808 (my birthday is on May 2nd… and isn’t a birthday often a time of transition?) The French invaded Spain and the two nations battled during the Peninsular War (1808-1914). The painting is rather gory, gruesome, and grim…

Goya, like a number of Spanish painters, spent time in France (he hung out in Bordeaux for a number of years). Picasso is another with strong ties to both nations.



Picassos’s Guernica (1937)   Guernica is a Basque town in Spain that was bombed on April 26, 1937 by Germany as a means of lending a hand to the Spanish Nationalists.                                                                     (La exposición del Reina-Prado. Guernica is in the collection of Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid.Source page: http://www.picassotradicionyvanguardia.com/08R.php (archive.org), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1683114)

While I was in Paris I went to a lecture which I thought was going to be about Picasso’s painting, Guernica. I imagined slides that would focus on specific details and then describe how and why Picasso chose the imagery he did.

The talk (in the basement of the Picasso Museum) was all in French, so I only caught bits and pieces, but it seemed to be more about Picasso’s role in the Spanish ex-pat artist community in Paris and his involvement with bringing what was going on during the Spanish Civil War to a broader audience than it was about deconstructing the painting in great detail. Despite the fact I struggled to follow along, it was a pretty cool experience to attend the lecture and doing so made me all the more determined to PRACTICE MY FRENCH between trips.



Jug in the Form of a Head, Self Portrait by Paul Gaugin

I am including this jug by the French artist Gaugin because of the macabre story behind its creation. Gaugin had been visiting with Vincent van Gogh when Vincent lopped off part of his left ear. I’m not sure why, but Vincent left the ear at a brothel both he and Gaugin liked to visit. What does seem to be clear is that all of this ear-lopping upset Gaugin, who left town shortly after the incident. Back in Paris, Gaugin was unfortunate enough to witness the beheading of a criminal. This jug/self-portrait makes reference to both these traumatic incidents and goes to show that no experience in life is wasted when one is an artist. It’s a great example of transforming trauma into something compelling (I was going to say beautiful, but I don’t find the jug to be beautiful… but yes, compelling).



Vincent van Gogh painted this portrait of Gaugin in 1888  ( Man in a Red Beret)



I hadn’t planned to include so many works of art in these posts, but art really is transformative in the way it can make us take another look at pretty much anything we experience (or can imagine). From some initial spark or idea or observation, artists create something worthy of our attention. Then we consumers of art respond and dissect and analyze and are moved by the product of their labours, which is a strange kind of alchemy indeed.






2 responses to “G is for Goya, Guernica, Gaugin and van Gogh (AtoZChallenge)

  1. Whoops! I was on my phone and saw a comment about not wanting to drink from this mug… went to approve it and *poof* – the comment disappeared before I could even register the name of the poster! If that was you and you happen to see this… please comment again. Sorry about that…


  2. Pingback: Week One Recap | darkcreekfarmdotcom

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