13 DECEMBER 1963, Page 18

Magnificent Goya

By NEVILE WALLIS With the enormous increase both of inter- national art books and of travel in Spain since the war, the full range of Goya's imagination has been explored by scholars and travelled English public alike. So it has been in France, whose artists have always responded more to his capricious Latin contrasts and his dream- world as disquieting as Redon's. That continuing power which makes Francisco Goya just as rele- vant to Francis Bacon's imagery de profundis demanded to be seen here in full strength.

It is his reasoning mind, nevertheless, which is uppermost in portraits and subject paintings in the Royal Academy's exhibition of 'Goya and his Times,' open until March 1. The dark king- dom of his imagination may be glimpsed only rarely in paintings, none having the passionate intensity of the deaf master's 'black' paintings done on the walls of his villa outside Madrid from 1819, and too fragile to leave the Prado. But the universal satirist of the society and super- stitions of Bourbon Spain is here in some draw- ings and the etchings of the Caprichos, Disasters of War and Proverbs series. (The range of his graphic art, his search for a purpose in life, is extended in an overwhelming collection of 'prints and drawings exhibited now at the British Museum.) The,calm centre of the Academy, how- ever, is the main gallery of portraiture in which

the celebrated La Maja, clothed and, nude, and the achingly tender and disturbing Countess of Chinchon, a sitter of twenty-one in 1800, are set off against the fresh background of Egyptian grey.

The ghost of Velasquez lurks continually in the intensification of character and breadth of vision, with the expressive use of hands often holding some identifying emblem. Goya could be swaggering, brutal or overpoweringly sensual in realising the sultry animalism of the actress Antonia Zarate in a harmony of warm gold and browns. Yet the almost immaterial air of his aristocratic portraits shows the directness of that apostolic descent from Velasquez, through Goya, to spectral Whistler. His simple elegance in this manner points to Goya's acquaintance with English eighteenth-century portraits. The aerial lightness of his brush in the family group of the Duke of Osuna, so delicate and delicious in tone, particularly recalls The Baillie Family of Gains- borough, familiar no doubt through prints. The abiding impression here is of this zenith of his technical proficiency, when the Spaniard's pene-

tration into the innermost feelings of familiars like the wry-mouthed Francisco Bayeu could be externalised with a quicksilvery touch, and the vibrant sheen of colours and play of sudden gleams often foreshadow the Impressionists.

Though this is the most comprehensive Goya exhibition to have been held anywhere outside Madrid, and includes the Prado's first major loan, it denies us such thunderbolts from the Penin- sular War as the firing squad, or his colossus of panic rearing over the streaming refugees and caravans. Loans from thirteen countries, how- ever, do enable us to judge Goya's innovatory range of imagery and the extent of his break with his predecessors and contemporaries in Spain, leaving successors as inconsiderable as Eugenio Lucas or the blandly academic Lopez.

Yet the master's early career was uncertain enough when his uncompromising, ungainly realism was seeking accommodation with the religious composition of Baroque, the Rococo or the new classical ideas which he inherited. How awkwardly ponderous is his Archangel Gabriel in a shower-bath of light, painted with an eye to the great Tiepolo who had been working in the 1760s in Madrid when the Aragonese student was studying at its Academy. But every precedent, every print, was being pressed into service with the avidity of a Picasso—in Rome in 1771, and Madrid when he was producing tapestry car- toons for the royal manufactory which led to his appointment as First Court Painter to Charles IV in 1799..

Till his death Goya's energy and swiftness of work were undiminished. But his torturing ob- session with the Duchess of Alba, and with the national disaster, worked increasingly on his in- ward vision in the isolation caused by his deaf- ness. • Monstrous phantasms assumed greater actuality than life, which Baudelaire admired in them. Most haunting at the Academy, in the absence of any great conceptual painting of his later years, are those Goya genre pictures where irrational elements invade the rational, to open the way to modern art. In a copy of his family group of the Infante Don Luis, the expectancy of the secretive figures gathered around the woman simply having her hair dressed by candle- light creates the electrifying tension of some- thing about to shatter the calm of a La Tour. Again, a down-to-earth, roughly Hogarthian scene of ragamuffins playing at see-saw intro- duces a monkey perched aloft like an evil spirit and a distant sea of such breath-taking phos- phorescence as to lift one out of this world. '1 have had three masters,' said Goya : `Velasquez, Rembrandt and Nature.' His supernatural faculty overmastered all.