The Sleep of Reason
etching with aquatint
Francisco José de Goya
"'Imagination abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters; united with her, she is the mother of the arts," wrote Goya in the subtitle of his etching The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. Imagination, its origins and its limits, fascinated Goya and permeated his work..."
detail: The Sleep of Reason...
"... Goya's illness, perhaps saturnism caused by toxic fumes from lead salts in the paint he used, brought chronic headaches and permanent hearing loss. Overcome with pessimism, isolated, and traumatized, he created his own aesthetic, turning personal demons into deadly universal themes and painting horrific fantasies laced with caustic social commentary...
...Along with the bizarre, he painted the comical, along with darkness, bright light. As a result, his images provoke at once fear and delight, sadness and ghoulish mirth... Goya's imagination, without abandoning reason, harnessed the supernatural into a troubling display of the unconscious and the irrational."
Francisco de Goya
"Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta" 1820
"Cat Fight" (1786-88) 1.40 m x 4.38 m
model for a tapestry intended to decorate
the dining room of the Prince of Asturias
Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes
"Animals, embodying human weaknesses, social tension, tragedy, the premonition of death, or some other insidious danger, appear repeatedly on a stage of constant hostility and conflict. At their most menacing, they exercise extraordinary powers and influence. In Cat Fight (see above), ... bellicose cats, frozen in time, apropos of nothing, engage the spectator through pity and terror.
Perched it seems on the edge of the world against an eerie void, these wild creatures stand in electrifying anticipation of trouble. Puffed, curled, glowering, almost translucent against the airless, depthless, oppressive space, they have lost their natural self-directedness. Like marionettes in the hands of an expert puppeteer, they seem to float in fluorescent space, awaiting instructions for the next move in what is certain to be a bloody contest. The brilliant yellow and red highlights reinforce the dreamlike unreality of the scene..."