Basel welcomes Goya as the great prophet of modernity

In the most emblematic corners of Basel, the third most populous city in Switzerland and one of the most powerful world centers of the pharmaceutical industry, large posters have been installed from which a young brunette dressed in transparencies that let you guess her body looks at the viewer as if inviting him to sit next to her on the cot on which she is reclining. It is La maja vestida , one of Goya’s most famous works, painted between 1800 and 1808. Almost inseparable couple of La Maja Naked , both suffered the qualification of “obscene” by the Court of the Inquisition and were condemned to the shadows until they could be exposed in the Academy of San Fernando and later they went on to enrich the collection of the Museo Nacional del Prado. The woman who now captures the gaze of passersby is the undisputed star of the anthological exhibition dedicated to Goya that since Sunday 10 and until 23 will be seen at the Beyeler Foundation in Basel. Today Friday it will be officially opened by Queen Letizia.

Titled only with the artistic name of Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, the exhibition wants to give to meet the brightest version of one of the greatest inspirers of modernity that, however, is scarcely known in countries such as Switzerland, Germany or Austria. What can now be enjoyed in the spectacular building designed by Renzo Piano on the outskirts of Basel are 75 paintings and more than 276 drawings and engravings provided by public and private collections that have rarely left their usual homes. The Prado, as a collaborator of the project, has transferred a dozen paintings, with La maja dressed as a banner. The gap left in Madrid will be an opportunity to condition the rooms where they are exhibited and reorder the exhibition area. In return, the Beyeler has collaborated with the Prado in exhibitions such as the one dedicated to Giacometti and that of Picasso, and they maintain other projects for the future. Other important providers have been the Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Lázaro Galdiano, the Casa de Alba Foundation, the Louvre, the Metropolitan in New York, the National Gallery in London or the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Vista de la exposición de Goya en Basilea.
View of the Goya exhibition in Basel. Pati Grabowicz

Goya (Fuendetodos, Zaragoza, 1746 – Bordeaux, France, 1828) unfolds in chronological order through the bright spaces on the main floor in a speech devised by Martin Schwander and executed by Sam Keller, president of the Foundation, and Isabela Mora, its head of international projects. Religious painting precedes scenes of sorcerers, witches and grotesque figures that gave rise to a work of immense variety in both forms and contents. Two paintings that come from private Spanish collections such as The Fall (1787) and La cucaña (1787) are good examples of that beginning of his mature period.

These two landscapes that were part of the series known as paintings for the mall of the Dukes of Osuna have participated in some exhibitions, but like many other works present here, they are very unknown to the general public.

Salas de la Fundación Beyeler con su muestra sobre Goya.
Rooms of the Beyeler Foundation with its exhibition on Goya. Pati Grabowicz

Miguel Falomir, director of the Prado, and Andrés Úbeda, deputy director of the museum, early visitors on Thursday morning, stressed the importance of being able to see “in person” works that habit They are usually only known from photographs. “The lighting in this building is extraordinary and the works are contemplated with details never seen before. And this, for my taste, is a perfect setting because it is my favorite museum. ”

Among the rarely seen works, the curator draws attention to the eight images owned by the Marqués de La Romana and that until now had only been seen on one occasion in the Prado. They are paintings with undesirable violence as the protagonist in which the artist describes some bandits murdering their prisoners and some naked women about to be forced.

'Anunciación', de Goya, en la Fundación Beyeler.
‘Anunciación’, by Goya, at the Beyeler Foundation. Pati Grabowicz

Another little-seen series on loan from individuals is titled Still lifes. It was painted by the artist during the Napoleonic occupation war. They are 14 pictures of the that are preserved 10 . In each of them there is a supposed delicacy prepared to be cooked, but the appearance of each one of them produces an immense sadness even if they are two slices of salmon, a partridge, a rack of pork or a skinned lamb’s head in which a tear springs from one of his dead eyes.

The many times disconcerting portraits of Goya sow the journey. Under his unforgiving and ambiguous gaze paraded prime ministers, poets, enlightened, thugs. The curator Martin Schwander explains that among his most outstanding pieces are the portraits he made of characters from the royal family and high nobility, but also of street people, often using friends and acquaintances as models. The artist knew how to capture complex personalities full of love, anger, suspicion or disgust from both sides. He himself portrayed himself on different occasions throughout his life as a successful young man, as a tormented mature man or as an old man overcome by disease.

'La familia del infante don Luis de Borbón', en Basilea.
‘The family of the infant Don Luis de Borbón’, in Basel. Pati Grabowicz

The engravings had different roles within Goya’s work. The exhibition includes a hundred of these works that gave Goya another platform from which he could develop new techniques that facilitated the presentation of attractive subjects. He produced long series that explored general themes such as human insanity, superstition, relations between the sexes, and war. At an advanced age, Goya turned to lithography. After his first modest attempts, he mastered the technique and produced Bordeaux Bulls (1825), considered one of the most notable examples of the medium ever produced and whose contemplation continues to raise doubts about his personal opinion about bullfighting.

Black paints

The series of black paintings is possibly one of the most popular of his production, although it is impossible to see outside the Prado Museum. To bridge this gap, the exhibition includes a visual piece by Philippe Parreno. In 40 minutes the artist based in Paris makes a personal recreation of what was the Goya house in Quinta del Sordo with the 14 mural works painted on plaster-covered walls. The haunting installation illustrates Goya’s enduring influence on later generations, from Picasso or Warhol to the present day. The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Ernst Beyeler (1921 – 2010), to Plácido Arango Arias (1931 – 2020) and Francisco Calvo Serraller (1931 – 2018).

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