Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Goya’s Pictorial Techniques of Reportage and Critique
In 2013, the Pinacothèque de Paris exhibited a large selection of prints and paintings by the Spanish artist Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes as part of a series called “Painters, Witnesses of their Time.” Yet several of Goya’s compositions have been adopted by artists as diverse as Manet in nineteenth-century France, Picasso during the Spanish civil war, and political cartoonists in the United States during the 2003 invasion of Iraq in order to depict the atrocities of their times. The focus of this course, then, will be to explore the extent to which Goya’s works do more than simply bear witness to the events of his day.
The course will begin with an investigation of Goya’s paintings and prints that critique the relationship between the Spanish people, monarchy, and church before and during the Peninsular War. We will then consider reinterpretations of Goya’s most famous works in forms as diverse as nineteenth-century paintings and contemporary internet memes in order to assess the complex ways that social critique can take pictorial form. Our discussions will be informed by art historical readings about Goya and the other artists whose works we will examine as well as texts from other disciplines, like anthropology, which could present fruitful models to our inquiries. Students in this course will hone their analytical reading, writing, and looking abilities while also developing research and composition skills. Assignments will include a series of short essays in which students can practice integrating the lessons of the course in addition to a multi-staged and peer-reviewed final research paper of ten pages.