The film is written and narrated by Australian art critic Robert Hughes who spent 5 weeks in a coma after a horrific car crash that left his body mangled and gave him haunting dreams that he believed brought him closer to Goya. This documentary was aired before Hughes’s lengthy and definitive biography Goya which was first released in October of 2003. In the documentary, Hughes traces Goya”s life from his childhood home to his final act. Hughes is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic admirer of the artist’s work.
Interesting tidbits: After an illness in 1792 Goya went deaf which Hughes credits for his transition from a court painter to one who began internally exploring the human condition. American artist Leon Golub adds his opinions and insights as to being a misunderstood artist with dark visions and likely provided the title of the film. Golub died in 2004, shortly after the film was released.
Geek tidbits: Goya’s first commission was a mural on the life of the Virgin Mary at the Carthusian monestary of the Aula Dei where women are forbidden and most of the monks live in silence. Improper wall preparation and water damage destroyed most of the works. Goya’s next job was with his brothers in law doing cartoons for tapestries. Goya’s famous series of etchings Los Caprichos (1799) which included the Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, was a financial disaster with only 27 of the original 300 editions selling. Hughes points out that Goya likely had feelings of unrequited love for the Dutchess of Alba whom Goya often painted and addressed a portrait of her that Goya kept locked up in his possession where she is pointing to the sand at her feet where it is written “solo Goya” (only Goya). Hughes says, “I think that desired her with the passionate and the rather deluded possessiveness that men of his age, and mine can feel for much younger women.” He then goes on to say that Goya’s famous painting of La Maja Desnuda was not the Dutchess of Alba as commonly believed, but rather a mistress of Prime Minister Godoy. Showing perhaps a little too much passion, he goes on to describe his feelings towards the painting, “…they are reality of unmoderated lust, what I would really like to do , were it possible, and alas neither time nor the guards of the Prado permit it, would be to hop in there like a bee getting into a peony and have a wonderful afternoon.”
Art Geek Factor:8 out of 10 Stars
Artistic Accuracy: 9 out of 10 Stars
Overall Movie: 7 out of 10 Stars
Summary: This is a film for those who are interested in the life of Goya and enjoy listening to a knowledgeable art critics such as Hughes provide insights and anecdotes relating to one of his heroes. Hughes provides equal doses of wit, admiration, and empathy.
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