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Proof: Francisco Goya, Sergei Eisenstein, Robert Longo

September 8, 2017–January 7, 2018

Details: Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746–1828). The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (reproduced in black and white), from The Caprices (Los Caprichos), 1797–98. Brooklyn Museum; A. Augustus Healy Fund, Frank L. Babbott Fund, and Carll H. de Silver Fund, 37.33.8. (Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum); Sergei Eisenstein (Russian, 1898–1948). Still from Alexander Nevsky, 1938. Gosfilmofond (National Film Foundation of Russian Federation); Robert Longo (American, born 1953). Untitled (Raft at Sea), 2017. © Robert Longo, Private European Collection. (Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York)

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Tell me more.
This is "Lo que puede un sastre" or "What a tailor can do," a print from Goya's "Los Caprichos" series. In this image, a young woman kneels before a cloaked figure, dressed as a friar. You might have noticed, however, that the cloaked figure's hands are branches: the woman is really kneeling before a tree dressed as a friar!
Thank you so much!
You're so welcome! I love chatting about Goya! What drew you to these prints in particular?
Mostly the absurdity of them - I saw the entire series at the PMA but when viewing all of the series at once, I glazed over a few and Proof has me seeing them in different a different light.
It's definitely worth taking the time to look at each individually! Our collection of "Los Caprichos" is actually an edition of more experimental artist proofs, so they may be a bit different from those you've seen before.
What is happening here?
That Goya print feature an old witch teaching a young witch how to fly. Goya used his print series' to comment on Spanish society. A frequent subject is belief in magic and folklore. As a member of the enlightenment, he was disdainful of these practices.
How many prints of the Goya's Disasters of War etchings were made?
There are 82 plates total in the Disasters of War series, though some scholars count only 80 of them. 
While I can't yet provide an exact number, it looks like about 1000 impressions of each plate in The Disasters of War have been made, though every edition does not include all the plates.
Tell me more.
What a Tailor Can Do! (Lo que puede un sastre!), by Francisco de Goya, shows a tree dressed in the robes of a friar. The young woman kneeling before the figure has been fooled into thinking that the tree is a real member of the clergy. The meaning of the work, as the name suggests, is that though anyone can dress as a clergy member, it doesn't necessarily make them virtuous.
In other words, Goya is critiquing corruption in the clergy during the early 19th century in Spain, a theme that shows up throughout his prints.
Can you please describe Francisco de Goya y Lucientes’s etching process/practice?
Goya made his etching in the manner that is still fairly standard today. He would first use a hard ground (a layer of wax heat cured on the copper plate) which he would incise the main lines of the drawing into with an etching needle. The areas that he drew on with the needle would be exposed, while the hard ground would protect all the covered areas, and then the plate would be etched in acid for an amount of time chosen by the artist, at which point the lines would be eaten away, leaving grooves in the copper to receive ink. Longer exposure to acid would result in deeper grooves.
Once the hard-ground was removed, the plate could be inked and printed using a press. The indents in the metal would hold the ink and the remaining surface would be clean of ink.
Goya would often also scratch lines directly into the metal plate's surface with an etching needle, leaving lines with fuzzier edges. This is called drypoint.
Last but not least, he was a master of aquatint. Aquatint is a variation on etching that allowed him to get all those velvety fields of grey and black. To make aquatint, Goya would dust the copper plate evenly with powdered rosin (or resin) and then heat set this. Areas not covered by the dust-like dots of rosin would be eaten away by the acid, while areas covered would be protected.
So all those fields of grey and black are actually made up of countless tiny dots of ink!
Wow!!!! Thank you!
How did Francisco de Goya y Lucientes die?
Goya died of a stroke in 1828 in Bordeaux, France at the age of 82.
Interestingly, two of the print series that he created were not published until well after his death, in the 1860s, because they were so politically controversial when he made them.
That's heartbreaking.
Tell me more.
You're looking at Sopla, or "Blow" from Francisco Goya's "Los Caprichos" or "The Whims" print series. It's a particularly odd one, isn't it? In this print, a tall witch uses a young boy as a bellows, holding him by his legs and using gas from his bottom to set fire to a brazier.
Many of Goya's prints from "Los Caprichos" reference witches, witchcraft, and superstition, as well as cruelty, all of which are on display here.
Can you tell me more about these two?
The first photo you sent is "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters." The name is a play on words. “Sueño” can mean “sleep” or “dream.” The implication is that when reason sleeps monsters are dreamt up instead to fill the space or that the figure is experiencing reason in excess, unchecked by reality.
The second shows an old witch showing a young witch how to fly. Goya often critiqued belief in magic and folklore in his prints. You can see that he also liked to use owls as symbols of demons or monsters.
What is aquatint?
Aquatint etching is a process for creating velvety fields of tone in a print.
To create an aquatint etching, the copper plate is covered with a fine powder of resin that is then heated so that it sticks to the plate, Protecting tiny dots of copper all over the etching plate. The plate can then be etched, and only the little spaces between the dusting of rosin are eaten away. Ink can then fill these spaces, creating solid planes of black or grey!
This looks interesting. 
This is one of my favorite of Los Caprichos. Do you have any guesses as to what it might be trying to say?
It's hard to say!
In this scene, a donkey is represented in his bedclothes, studying his lineage of past donkeys. The donkey is supposed to represent the aristocracy and the contradiction that as the "enlightened ones," they are nothing more than jackasses.
It also comments on the idea of lineage and, specifically, the ridiculousness of one Prime Minister who was said to have hired genealogists to uncover his venerable origins. The family tree they prepared was so large and absurd that it claimed he was the descendant of the Gothic Kings of Spain.
I think it is one of his most searing and visually effective of Goya's critiques.
Yes, I've seen it for a long time now but didn't know what it meant. Thank you so much.
You're welcome!