A Genius who was creative to the end.
Robert Hughes (remember ‘the Shock of the New’?) is the best art critic around and he’s recently written a perceptive review of an exhibition of Goya’s late works. The exhibition is devoted to work done when he was nearly 82 and living in exile in Bordeaux. There is a moving oil, ‘Self Portrait with Dr Arrieta.’ How did he paint that? He is shown ill and ailing and the doctor is encouraging him to drink a potion. A painting carefully composed from memory perhaps.
The most instructive though are the little miniatures he did in watercolour on ivory. Mostly of subjects he observed on the streets of Bordeaux of people odd and tormented. These are not the tight detailed miniatures we’ve grown accustomed to from The Hilliard Society but expressive ones made from blots, dabs and accidental runs of black dilute watercolour. As Hughes observes ‘… they contain some of the most beautiful feats of controlled chance that would be seen in art until the 20th Century.’
‘Man looking for fleas in his shirt.’ is a study of a short-sighted old man trying to remove tne tiny pests. Goya would have been sympathetic to the man’s predicament because he was complaining to friends about his own failing eyesight. The miniature shows that powerful and moving images are made by acute observation and empathy with the subject rather than refined and perfected technique.
You can read Robert Hughes’ review at: Goya's Last Works
There is also a link to the exhibition where you can see the pictures.