The Shock of the New, etc.). Born in Aragon in 1746, Goya weathered the Peninsular Wa"/>

GOYA

Robert Hughes, Author . Knopf $40 (429p) ISBN 978-0-394-58028-9

A long life and vast works make fitting subjects for the epic-minded Hughes (The Shock of the New, etc.). Born in Aragon in 1746, Goya weathered the Peninsular Wars (1808–1814) in Spain and lived to the age of 82, when he died in self-imposed exile in France. Hughes denies the popular image of the artist as a die-hard iconoclast, painting court portraits while winking behind his patrons' backs. Staying close to the visual evidence, Hughes shows Goya was not above flattering his royal subjects (aggrandizing midget count Altamira), waxing patriotic (as in the famous Third of May) and taking commissions from the Bonapartes under the French occupation. In middle age he was struck deaf by an unidentifiable illness, at which point his pictures turned darker—a bullfighter gored before eager spectators, the inmates of a madhouse clamoring for respite. His Desastres de la guerra rendered the mute, gaping horror of guerrilla combat. Under a picture of refugees fleeing the French, he inscribed, "I saw it." Whether or not this much debated act of witness really happened, for Hughes it is Goya's urgent visual economy that "invented... the illusion of being there when dreadful things happen." Given his intimate understanding of the painter, one regrets that Hughes's diligent catalogues of the Caprichos and Pinturas Negras (among the 115 color and 100 b&w illustrations) often forgo in-depth analysis for textbook thoroughness. But he compellingly insists on Goya's prophetic genius, arguing that, for an age that has produced few great paintings in response to modern terrors, Goya's pictures anticipate disasters unheard of but yet to arrive. (Nov. 10)

Forecast: With a first printing of 75,000 and a first serial in Vanity Fair, the bet clearly is that readers will agree with Hughes's assessment. A new survey of Goya's oeuvre by former Kunsthalle Hamberg director Werner Hofmann, also titled Goya, is scheduled to arrive two weeks after Hughes book, and includes 253 color illustrations. (Thames & Hudson, $75 336p ISBN 0-500-09317-2)

Reviewed on: 09/29/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
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