I Made a Recent Trip to Go See an Exhibition of Prints by Francisco de Goya – in Lake City, SC

by Tom Starland, editor/publisher Carolina Arts

Who would have thought that I could get in my car and drive 52 miles from Bonneau, SC, to go see an exhibit of first edition prints by Francisco de Goya and I wasn’t headed to Charleston, SC? Not me, but I did it on Friday, 10/17, 2014, by driving to the Jones-Carter Gallery in Lake City, SC. You can’t do that in Columbia, SC, or Raleigh, NC. But you should make the trip anyway.

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Francisco de Goya, the Spanish artist who lived from 1746 to 1828 is hot! Major exhibitions of his works are on display at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, in Boston, MA, at the Meadows Museum, at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, TX, and the Jones-Carter Gallery, in Lake City, SC.

Lake City, SC? That’s right. The Jones-Carter Gallery is presenting, “Francisco de Goya’s Los Caprichos,” an exhibition of etchings, one of the most influential graphic series in the history of Western art, organized by Landau Traveling Exhibitions. This exhibition features a superb first edition of the complete set of 80 etchings, which by tradition was one of the four sets acquired directly from Goya in 1799 by the duke of Osuna. It then came into the hands of Pedro Fernández Durán, of the house of the marquis of Perales, the greatest Spanish collector of the 19th century and a major donor to the Prado. His collector’s mark appears on all 80 prints of this set. The Museo del Prado is the main Spanish national art museum, located in central Madrid.  The exhibit is on view, for free, through Jan. 3, 2015. And for most of you in the Carolinas – Lake City is just a few hours away and just 20 minutes off of  I-95.

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At the Museum of Fine Arts Boston the exhibit, “Goya: Order and Disorder”, is on view Oct. 12, 2014 – Jan. 19, 2015. The largest Goya exhibition in North America in a quarter century, “Goya: Order and Disorder” is on view only at the MFA. The full range of Goya’s ingenuity is on display: from the elegant full-length portraits of aristocrats that established his reputation in Madrid, to the satirical prints that carried his fame beyond his country, and to the sympathetic or acerbic drawings from his private albums that reveal the very foundation of his ideas.

The Meadows Museum in Dallas, is presenting, “Goya: A Lifetime of Graphic Invention”, which is on view through Mar. 1, 2015. The exhibition launches the Meadows’ 50th anniversary year by presenting the entirety of the Museum’s holdings of printed works by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828): 222 etchings, four lithographs, and three trial proofs. The exhibition provides visitors with a rare opportunity to view complete first edition sets of Goya’s four great print series—”Los Caprichos (The Caprices, 1799)”, “Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War, 1810-19)”, “La Tauromaquia (Bullfighting, 1816)”, and “Los Disparates (The Follies, 1815-23)” – as well as the Museum’s holdings of Goya’s paintings, which will be displayed alongside the prints. The Meadows Museum is the leading US institution focused on the study and presentation of the art of Spain.

Three more museum shows of Goya’s works are set for Europe in the coming year, but you can go take advantage of this “rare opportunity” as the Meadows Museum states, right here in the Carolinas.

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Enigmatic and controversial, “Los Caprichos” was created in a time of social repression and economic crisis in Spain. Influenced by Enlightenment thinking, Goya set out to analyze the human condition and denounce social abuses and superstitions. “Los Caprichos” was his passionate declaration that the chains of social backwardness had to be broken if humanity was to advance.

Today, Goya might feel history is repeating itself – not in Spain, Africa, or the Middle East, but right here in the good old United States. Goya produced prints that showed the enormous gap between the rich and poor, the abuses of the rich and powerful on the poor, the use of religion to persecute others, denial of science, and abuse of children. He could be an editorial cartoonist for any major newspaper in America.

Goya’s Spain doesn’t look that much different from today’s headlines. And, it doesn’t seem that human nature has changed much.

The prints themselves are amazing. Goya demonstrated great tonal variations in his etchings. Unlike today’s editorial cartoons, Goya’s prints are also extremely detailed.

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Viewing the exhibition might take several hours, especially if you read all the descriptions, which come from three points of view: first, is the Prado manuscript. Many believe that this document was written by Goya himself in order to explain the purpose of the prints as moralizing satires on society in general; second, is from the Ayala manuscript, which lays out interpretations of the prints in shorter descriptions lacking the poetic, moralizing tone of the Prado manuscript; and third, comments offered by Robert Flynn Johnson, curator of this exhibition. Johnson is Curator in Charge, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. He also wrote the essay, “Biting the Hand that Fed Him”.

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Plate #3. “Here comes the bogey-man”, 215 mm x 152 mm (8 1/2 x 6 in.) H. 38. Courtesy of Landau Traveling Exhibitions.
PRADO:  Lamentable abuse of early education. To cause a child to fear the bogeyman more than his father and so make it afraid of something that does not exist.
AYALA:  Mothers place fear in their children with the tale of the bogeyman, so that they can speak to their lovers.
RFJ:  Goya’s condemnation of parents who instill unfounded fears in their children is even relevant today.

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Plate #22. “Poor little girls!”, 216 mm x 149 mm (8 1/2 x 15/16 in.) H. 57. Courtesy of Landau Traveling Exhibitions.
PRADO:  They are going to mend these tattered women, take them in as they have been getting loose for long enough.
AYALA:  Poor harlots are sent to prison—rich ones go free.
RFJ:  Goya utilized dark passages of aquatint to create bold contrasts of light and shadow in this print. The postures of the two prostitutes, hooded in shame, express their disgrace at being led off to prison.

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Plate #24. “Nothing could be done about it”, 216 mm x 151 mm (8 1/2 x 5 15/16 in.) H. 59. Courtesy of Landau Traveling Exhibitions.
PRADO:  They are persecuting this saintly woman to death! After having signed her death sentence, they take her out in triumph and if they do it to insult her they are wasting time. No one can shame someone who has nothing to be ashamed of.
AYALA:  Covered with a cone-shaped cap; she was poor and ugly. How could there be a remedy.
RFJ:  Although Goya places the poor “suffering” woman at the center of the image, he saves his most savage observations for the ugly mob composed of self-important clerics and street rabble.

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Plate #52. “What a tailor can do!”, 215 mm x 150 mm (8 1/2 x 5 15/16 in.) Etching, burnished aquatint, drypoint and burin, H. 87. Courtesy of Landau Traveling Exhibitions.
PRADO:  How often can some ridiculous creature be suddenly transformed into a presumptuous coxcomb who is nothing but appears to be much. That is what can be done by the ability of a tailor and the stupidity of those who judge things by their appearance.
AYALA:  Superstition makes the ignorant mob worship a clothed tree trunk.
RFJ:  The Ayala text is far more direct in linking superstition to the veneration of a scarecrow. Goya sees the power of the Church abused as it perpetuates fooling the public.

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Plate #69. “Blow”, 211 mm x 147 mm (8 5/16 x 5 3/4 in.), Etching, aquatint, drypoint and burin, H. 104. Courtesy of Landau Traveling Exhibitions.
PRADO:  No doubt there was a great catch of children the previous night. The banquet which they are preparing will be a rich one: Bon appetit.
AYALA:  Children are the object of a thousand obscenities for the aged and the depraved.
RFJ:  Truly one of the most perverse of the whole series. In this horrific scene of pedophilia, Goya depicts a warlock swinging a young boy, whose expelled gas ignites a brazier. Below, another warlock performs oral sex upon another unseen boy. Goya’s outrage at the mistreatment of children is unmistakable here.

Offered as a bonus to “Los Caprichos” is one work from Goya’s three other print series. The first thing you notice is that after each successful print series – the images get bigger. The quality of the prints stay the same from 1799 – 1823. Also, the exhibit offers some examples by Goya’s contemporaries, with updated imagery. My favorite here was a revision of Goya’s #3 plate, “Here comes the bogey-man”, showing David Duke in his best Klan robes by Enrique Chagoya (b. 1953), a Mexican-born painter and printmaker.

What’s still amazing to me is that the Community Museum Society in Lake City, which runs the Jones-Carter Gallery and now oversees ArtFields© got this timely exhibition booked while major exhibitions were being planned in bigger cities in the US. It represents how serious the folks in Lake City are in making their small town an arts destination. At the least, every art student at every college and university in the Carolinas should make an effort to see this show – especially those studying printmaking.

Frankly, every art lover in the Carolinas and the region should make an effort to come see this show. It might be an extended day trip for some on either end of I-95, but soon a new 57-room boutique hotel will open on Main Street in Lake City, just a big city block away from the Jones-Carter Gallery and  in the middle of where most of the ArtFields© displays will be. The Inn at the Crossroads will open soon – months before this exhibit ends.

It’s been a couple months since I was last in Lake City, and it seems to look better with every visit and traffic on main street was busy – not just cars passing through town, but many parked on the street.

Did I mention that admission to the Jones-Carter Gallery is free and there is always plenty of parking available? Admission to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston is $25, plus the cost of getting and staying there. Admission to the Meadows Museum in Dallas is $10, plus the cost of getting and staying there. By saving all that money by going to see works by Goya in Lake City, it will leave you with plenty of money for shopping and dinning while you are there. Of course they do have a donation box at the front desk. You can help them out in bringing more exhibits like this to Lake City.

Hanna Davis, Gallery Director, told me they have had visitiors from 12 states and a few days before I came to see the show, there was a couple from Scotland  that came to see the show. I guess if you can’t get free of the UK, you might as well come see Goya prints in Lake City.

Jones-Carter Gallery, is located at 105 Henry Street, next to The Bean Market in Lake City. The gallery is open Tue.-Fri., 10am-6pm and Sat., 11am-5pm.

For further information call Hanna Davis, Gallery Director, at 843/374-1505 or visit (www.jonescartergallery.com).

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