Goya’s Portraits of the Snooty Spanish Contrast With His Anti-War Artwork

Art enthusiasts now have the opportunity to glimpse into the faces of the late 18th century from Francisco Goya’s position as royal court painter of the Spanish monarchy. In collaboration with the Museo Nacional de Arte in Mexico City, the San Diego Museum of Art presents an exhibition of Spain’s most prolific painter with a collection of his still-life portraits and a smaller assortment of etchings.

The exhibit features two separate aspects of the artist’s work. One is the highly advertised showcase of Goya’s take on Spanish society through the portraits of various representative subjects. Drawing from the ranks of aristocratic, religious and commercial figures, Goya presents each colorful image with a shade of contrasting solemnity and detail. The images include the cold and austere “Portrait of the Marquis of Sofraga,” a heavily decorated general staring past the artist and the spectator with the glance of condescending superiority. Goya depicts the distinctly human features of the “noble” Spanish character, encapsulated in his nation’s tumultuous struggle for economic and political prominence. Through these subject paintings, Goya captures the time and appearance of the upper echelons of Spanish society with an uncompromising style that interprets the well-fed figures with an air of uncertainty, snobbery and vulnerability.

The museum also includes a collection of his anti-war etchings, “Disasters of War.” The drawings were made in reproach of the Peninsular War between Spain and Napoleon’s armies. Away from the portraitures, the drawings showcase the dissipated faces and villages of common, rural folk distraught by the haunting effects of war.

“Goya’s Portraits” is on display through June 8 at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.