Francisco Goya, considered to be "the Father of Modern Art", began his painting career just after the late Baroque period. In expressing his thoughts and feelings frankly, as he did, he became the pioneer of new artistic tendencies which were to come to fruition in the 19th century.
He is more commonly known for his moving and often disturbing oil on canvas; however, he can also be considered as one of the most important and talented etchers ever to have tried the medium. While it is due to his magnificent rococo inspired portraits that he can claim the epithet "Last of the great masters", it is his post-1790 paintings and, more importantly, his etching and aquatints that earn Goya the ascription "First of the moderns".
However, Goya is perhaps better known for creating images critical of changes in the world around him. His later work famously records scenes of violence and destruction during the Napoleonic wars and openly comments on social injustice and senseless cruelty within Spanish society. Goya bravely expressed these feelings through his paintings and graphic art. Los Caprichos, his first series of etchings, clearly shows his willingness to record the world as he really saw it, with all its horror, tragedy and ugliness.
Animals, Beasts and Monsters
Many of the 80 prints in Los Caprichos contain imagery of animals, beasts and monsters in a variety of comical, melancholy and sometimes disturbing compositions.
Donkeys, parrots, bats, goblins, devils and witches not only illustrate the extremes of Goya’s imagination but symbolise his observations of the darker themes of human behaviour in Spanish society.
In Plates 37 to 42 a series of donkeys dressed as humans plays on the common association of the donkey or ass with foolish or stubborn behaviour. Works portraying the donkey as teacher, music connoisseur or doctor, question roles of knowledge and wisdom in society, while another showing a donkey having his portrait painted by a monkey ridicules the pretentious..
Goya’s distorted caricatures of animals and monsters, and everything in between, examine the more comical and disturbing examples of human behaviour in 18th century Spanish society. For the viewer, they are often bizarre, puzzling or uncomfortable to look at, but without a doubt they stimulate imagination and reflection.