History of European Ideas 42 (7):965-980 (2016)

Derek Allan
Australian National University
Modern critics often regard Goya's etchings and black paintings as satirical observations on the social and political conditions of his times. In a study of Goya first published in 1950, which seldom receives the attention it merits, the French author and art theorist André Malraux contends that these works have a much deeper significance. The etchings and black paintings, Malraux argues, represent a fundamental challenge to the humanist artistic tradition that began with the Renaissance - a tradition founded on the pursuit of a transcendent world of nobility, harmony and beauty. Following an illness that left him deaf for life, Goya developed an art of a fundamentally different kind - an art, Malraux writes, ruled by ‘the unity of the prison house’ which replaced transcendence with a pervasive feeling of dependence and from which all trace of humanism has been erased. Foreshadowing modern art's abandonment of the Renaissance ideal, the etchings and black paintings are the first announcement of the death of beauty in Western art.
Keywords beauty  Goya  etchings  Malraux  art  Renaissance
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DOI 10.1080/01916599.2016.1161533
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