Original graphical pieces by classical world artists in Minsk
The National Art Museum of Belarus is hosting Goya... Picasso from the collection of the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts
The National Art Museum of Belarus is hosting Goya... Picasso from the collection of the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts, showcasing 95 works from the famous series by two great Spanish painters — 80 metal engravings by Francisco Goya and 15 etchings by Pablo Picasso.
The San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando) is the premier state educational establishment of Spain, founded in 1752 by Spanish King Ferdinand VI. In its early years, the Academy achieved fame for its magnificent picture gallery. At various times the institution was headed by prominent figures of the Spanish arts, including Francisco Goya, who was connected with it from 1785 to 1820, being its Vice Director and Dean of the Pictorial Department. Pablo Picasso was also among the students of this well-known Academy for a short period of time in the late 19th century (in 1897-1898). The exhibition in Minsk consists of two parts. The first presents Goya’s etchings from the series Los Caprichos, Tauromaquia, Los Disparates (The Follies) and The Disasters of War. The second part is dedicated to Picasso’s creative activity. Visitors will be able to familiarise themselves with his 15 graphical pieces, which include Vollard Suite and illustrations to The Unknown Masterpiece by Honoré de Balzac, as well as separate etchings, such as The Wounded Picador, Troupe of Actors (Troupe d’Acteurs) and Three Women and the Toreador.
The exhibition showcases 31 etchings from the famous Los Capriccios series (in total, there are 80 exhibits), created in 1797-1798. Using the image of Spanish folk proverbs, fables and sayings, Goya ridiculed human superstition and evils such as cowardice, hypocrisy and cruelty. Each piece in the series contains a drawing and the author’s commentary. The original plates still belong to the Academy in Madrid and prints of the etchings were made during Goya’s lifetime. The second famous series of Goya’s etchings — The Disasters of War (1808-1820) — is dedicated to the Spanish Revolution and the Napoleonic war that followed. It was printed after the master’s death. Meanwhile, works from the Tauromaquia series depict scenes from La Corrida.
Experts view Francisco de Goya as the main painter of Spanish Romanticism: gloomy, strange and paradoxical. Goya’s creativity is peculiar owing to its complex diversity of topics, images and moods. Undoubtedly, the exhibition’s organisers must be given credit for their efforts to fully reflect his creative activity by collecting the most interesting works of the great master for the Minsk exhibition.
The subjects of Goya’s works are still relevant today, tackling eternal problems and showing the horrors of war in its true colours while laughing at human evils. The artist’s works trace his tragic thoughts about life, spiritual conflicts and his search for beauty.
Of the Picasso works, the exhibition displays his pieces from the series Vollard Suite, illustrations to The Unknown Masterpiece by Honoré de Balzac, as well as separate etchings, such as The Wounded Picador, Troupe of Actors and Three Women and the Toreador.
The engravings from the Vollard Suite series were created by Pablo Picasso under the sponsorship of Ambroise Vollard who commissioned them — one of the most important art dealers in Paris at that time. The Vollard Suite is a series of wonderfully precise etchings, romantic, intimate and steeped in antiquity. The series is recognised by specialists as the pinnacle of 20th century art engravings.
“The artist,” said Picasso “is a political creature who constantly lives by astonishment, awful or joyful, which he has to respond to…” It’s no accident that Picasso’s works are full of pain and protest and have great public meaning and deep humanistic content.
The creative life of these two Spanish artists is closely connected with the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, which characterised the 15-year-old student Picasso as a ‘brilliant talent’.
During the many years that Goya occupied a range of executive positions at the Madrid Academy: the post of the deputy director of the pictorial department and artistic leader of the royal tapestry manufacture, he was also a court painter.
Undoubtedly, the works by Francisco de Goya and Pablo Picasso have acquired universal significance as a reflection of triumphs and tragedies, vitality and restless human searches. Therefore, Goya… Picasso exhibition has great meaning for the popularisation of their legacy and the history of art while offering a unique opportunity to see original works by the greatest Spanish painters. The exhibition is of interest both to art experts and those who are simply enthusiasts.
The Spanish Ambassador to Belarus, Jose Ignacio Carbajal, noted that this ‘exhibition of great painters will facilitate the popularisation of Spain’s great cultural legacy’.
In turn, the curator of the exhibition in Minsk, a correspondent member of the Real Academia Canaria de Bellas Artes de San Miguel Arcángel, an academician of the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts, an art expert and sculptor, Juan Bordes, during the opening of the exhibition said that at the time of their creation the engravings were designed for re-printing; however, in the 20th century no one did this, since each engraving has its own lifespan. It wasn’t difficult to find Goya’s works in the 19th century, yet only single copies are available now. Mr. Bordes believes that the spread of knowledge about engravings as an artistic medium and its popularisation is one of the major functions of the Royal Academy museum and the national engraving collection.
“An invitation to showcase an engraving at the National Art Museum is an honour for us and one more opportunity to tell the public about it,” noted Mr. Bordes. “This is my first time in Minsk, and I’ve seen considerable interest towards Spanish culture which is very pleasing for us. It seems to me that Belarusians are very close to Spaniards in mentality and humanity, in their inner life.” According to the academician, both Goya and Picasso ‘aren’t only Spanish artists — they belong to the whole world, and their influence, their message, only strengthen in the course of time’.
The art expert said that practically the whole collection of Goya’s engravings is kept at the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts to which the painter donated his works. As far as Picasso’s works are concerned, they are dispersed throughout the world and the museum had primarily to buy them. “Here we’ve presented examples of all his major works which will form a general impression of his creativity,” asserted Mr. Bordes.
One of the halls at the National Art Museum of Belarus was painted various colours, from pink to yellow, especially for the Goya… Picasso exhibition, depending on the topic, mood and plot of the engravings.
The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to France and Spain (on concurrent), Mr. Pavel Latushko, called the demonstration of the exhibition ‘the largest project between Belarus and Spain over the period of modern relations’. The Berin Art Management Company has organised the event, with support from the Education Ministry, the Minsk City Executive Committee, the Culture Ministry and Ambassador Pavel Latushko in person.
The total cost of artworks presented by the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid amounts to almost 1.5bn Euros. There’s no doubt that in its significance and value the Goya… Picasso exhibition is unique. This is a great gift for Belarusian connoisseurs of high art. Before this, the exhibition went on display in museums throughout Italy, Brazil and India. Now, the Belarusian spectators have a rare chance to see original works by the world’s great masters.
By Veniamin Mikheev