• News Retrospective

    Retrospective: Why Goya Is So Contemporary

    And other excerpts from our coverage 100, 75, 50, and 25 years ago

    100 YEARS AGO

    The art of George Bellows seems to be one that is either likeable or repellant. He excites in his broadly brushed virile (Winslow) Homer-(ic) oils, painted with two or three exceptions along the Maine Coast last Summer and Autumn, and now shown at the Montross Galleries, 550 Fifth Ave., through Jan. 31, either the enthusiastic praise or the anathemas of the cognoscenti. . . .

    Following in Winslow Homer’s footsteps Bellows, like Rockwell Kent, has translated with crude color, oftentimes, but it seems to the writer, with remarkable strength and sympathy, the scenery, the sea and the humans of the stern and rockbound Maine Coast.

    – “George Bellows at Montross’s,” January 24, 1914

    75 YEARS AGO

    Cobbler’s Bench, Mount Lebanon, NY, early 19th century.  COURTESY ANDREWS COLLECTION, HANCOCK SHAKER VILLAGE. PHOTO: MICHAEL FREDERICKS.

    Cobbler’s Bench, Mount Lebanon, NY, early 19th century.

    COURTESY ANDREWS COLLECTION, HANCOCK SHAKER VILLAGE. PHOTO: MICHAEL FREDERICKS.

    A display of Shaker arts and crafts which has been current at the Worcester Art Museum strikingly calls attention to the fact that functionalism is by no means a purely modern theory, though a century and a half ago when this small religious group set up their first colony on our shores it doubtless appeared more revolutionary than in contemporary design today. . . .

    The purity of line and form in furniture, the neatly balanced proportions of buildings, the refinement of design in ironware and sober perfection of all crafts produced by relatively self-sustaining Shaker communities are, indeed, a model for the utilitarian modes of today. Avoiding “carnal” styles and tastes, the Shakers took a guild-like pride in their work which would glorify their heavenly calling.

    —“Worcester: Functionalism of Shaker Craftsmen: An Illuminating Show,” January 14, 1939

    The President and First Lady attend a benefit for the National Cultural Center, 29 November 1962, Washington, DC, National Guard Armory.  COURTESY JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, BOSTON. PHOTO: ABBIE ROWE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

    The President and First Lady attend a benefit for the National Cultural Center, November 29, 1962, Washington, D.C., National Guard Armory. 

    COURTESY JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, BOSTON. PHOTO: ABBIE ROWE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

    50 YEARS AGO

    The more so since his accomplishments on a world scale are likely to overshadow, quite understandably, his record also as a cultural force.

    The Kennedy administration’s influence in this area came about as the result, one often as indirect as it was positive, of the youthful President’s own tastes and ideas, and also through some of the people in his closest surroundings (including his wife, certain of his family and friends, along with a few officials). It had to be so—for no such presidential role is called for by American law or national tradition.

    –“Editorial: Kennedy pro arte…et sequitur?,” by Alfred Frankfurter, January 1964

     25 YEARS AGO

    Francisco Goya y Lucientes, Tu que no puedes (You who cannot), 1797-98, etching and burnished aquatint. COURTESY MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON, BEQUEST OF WILLIAM PERKINS BABCOCK.

    Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Tu que no puedes (You who cannot), 1797-98, etching and burnished aquatint.

    COURTESY MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON, BEQUEST OF WILLIAM PERKINS BABCOCK.

    What kind of mirror would Goya have offered to our century, the century of Auschwitz, the gulag, Hiroshima, apartheid, the Salvadoran death squads and the contra war in Nicaragua? One immediately thinks, once again, of the great Saturn painting. And, with a sad smile, one looks back on the Century of Lights and hears the philosopher John Locke proclaiming, from the height of the Age of Reason, that “human understanding is. . . in all places the same, although imperfectly developed in idiots, children, and savages.”

    Looking at Francisco de Goya through his deformed mirror, one sees the artist embrace precisely the marginal, the forgotten, the outraged, so as to include them in a vision of humanity that enlarges our own historic and human possibility by looking at what we also are, but have perhaps forgotten. . . . Like all great art, Goya’s makes the past part of our present—actual, searingly contemporaneous.

    – “Goya and the Spirit of Revolution,” by Carlos Fuentes, January 1989

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