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Megan Ervin

Art 01 Art History II

Karen L. Churchill

8 July 00

Buy custom Francisco De Goya and the Era of Romanticism term paper

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Francisco de Goya’s “The Witches Sabbath”, and the era of Romanticism

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the exhibition committee. My name is Megan Ervin. Today, I will be discussing Spanish artist Francisco de Goya’s oil on canvas painting of “The Witches Sabbath.” Goya produced this piece of art during the Romantic Movement, which will be the central focus of my discussion today. Romanticism was an artistic and intellectual movement that originated in the late 18th century. It stressed strong emotion, imagination, freedom from classical correctness in art forms, and rebellion against social conventions. I have chosen “The Witches Sabbath” in this presentation due to its fascinating portrayal of witchcraft, which I shall explain later, was Goya’s method of exaggerating the method of witchcraft. The use of light, nature, and characters compliments the very backbone of the Romantic Movement.

The word Romantic is derived from the romance languages; French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian, as well as Medieval tales of chivalry and adventure. Romantic, meaning “romance-like” was associated with the emerging taste for wild scenery, and sublime prospects and ruins. The British writer and statesman Edmund Burke identified Romanticism as having “beauty with delicacy, harmony, vastness, obscurity, and a capacity to in spite terror.” Also during the 18th century, feeling was more important than reason. The visionary illustrations of the English poet William Blake, pictures of Swiss English painter Henry Fuseli, and the somber etchings of monsters and demons by Goya, all showed the reflections of the shift from reason toward feeling and imagination in the Romantic era.

The precise dates of the Romantic Movement are hard to pin point. Historians agree however, that it began in Germany and England in the 1770’s, by the 180’s it had swept through Europe. The revolution of 180 in France1 marks the high point in Romantic influence on the politics of time, echoing peoples fears, hopes and aspirations. It was the voice of the Revolution at the beginning of the 1th century and the voice of the Establishment at the end of it.

Romanticism characterized many works of literature, painting, music, architecture, criticism, and historiography in Western civilization. It can be seen as a rejection of the precepts of order, calm, harmony, balance, idealization and rationality that defined Neoclassicism in the late 18th century.

Among the characteristic attitudes of Romanticism were the following a deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature; a general emotion over reason and of the senses over intellect; a turning in upon the self and a heightened examination of human personality and its moods including mental potential; a preoccupation of the genius, the hero, and the exceptional figure in general, focusing on his passions and inner struggles. This also brought about a new view of the artist as a supremely individual creator, whose creative spirit is more important playing by the formal rules and traditional procedures. Romanticism emphasized imagination as a gateway to spiritual truth. Representative of most pieces of Romantic art are exoticism, remote, mysterious, weird, monstrous, diseased, even sometimes satanic.

In contrast to the Neo-Classicalism, Romantics believed in expressing emotion and sentiment, and supported contemporary causes, such as individuals struggle against abuses in the state. Romantics were interested in the mind as being mysterious, and to some extent a dangerous phenomenon. Dreams, nightmares, imagination and insanity were depicted as internal events. Such is evident in “The Witches Sabbath.” Goya, who under the patronage of Charles IV, became the most successful and fashionable artist in Spain.

Goya came to maturity in 1775 with the first of some 60 cartoons for the royal tapestry factory of Santa Barbara. In 1780, he was elected to the Royal academy in Madrid, and in 1786, was appointed painter for Charles III. Though Goya welcomed his honors and success, the record he left of his patrons and their society is haunting. The eroticism of hi famous “Naked Maja” and “Clothed Maja” (c. 1800-05) caused him to be summoned before the Inquisition in 1815. After an illness left him permanently deaf in the 170’s, his work changed dramatically. His 80 caprices were satirical prints attacking political, social and religious abuses. When Napoleon invaded Spain (1805-1815), Goya produced the 8 etching series, “The Disasters of War”. In 184, he settled in France and reigned as court painter in 186. There, he completed nearly 500 oil paintings and murals, 00 etchings and lithographs, hundreds of drawings and more than 00 portraits. He is said to have acknowledged masters D Velasquez, Rembrandt, and nature. He had no immediate followers, but his work profoundly influenced 1th century European art.

During Goya’s exaggerated realism, was when he produced “The Witches Sabbath”. This painting complimented the belief of witchcraft by portraying the primitive nature of such ideas. Here, Goya attacks the Inquisition by showing old, ugly deformed women as witches, who sucked the blood of children and fed the infants to Satan. Here, the witches form a circle around a devil disguised as a goat. One witch is offering a bloodless skeletal infant to the devil. The use of the goat and the great detail of this artwork compliment the popular ideas that the witches sabbath was an orgiastic, cannibalistic ritual.

Goya uses on-point linear perspective with the vanishing point being the head of the goat. This method is very effective. He wants to first draw the viewer’s attention to the goat, then to scan down to view all of the witches. There is a definite use of symmetry, with the main activity taking place in the middle, and there is an even amount of shape on each side of the canvas. The goat is dead center. The witches are strategically circled around him forming even placement of their bodies. With this format, there is unity in the relationship of the witches to the goat. Their worship, newborn sacrifice, shows their devotion to this satanic emblem, and further emphasizes the moral quality of witchcraft.

The Romantic Movement cannot be compared to a single style, technique or attitude. It is simply highly imaginative, subjective, and intense, with dream-like and visionary quality. Romanticism is different than Classical and Neo Classical art, which is calm, restrained, and clear and complete with expression. The artists of the Romantic Movement showed an affinity with nature, and its wild mysterious aspects. Romantics evoked awe and passion, with their exotic, melancholy and melodramatic subjects.

Unlike the enlightenment, which was a movement that started among the tiny elite and slowly spread to make its influence known through society, Romanticism was more widespread both in its origins and influence. No other intellectual/artistic movement has had comparable variety, reach and staying power since the end of the middle Ages.

The subject of Romanticism and nature is a vast one. There was rarely a time that the Europeans did not celebrate nature in some form or another, but the attitudes toward nature in the Western world today emerged mostly during the Romantic period. Unlike the Chinese and Japanese, Europeans had traditionally little interest n natural landscapes for their own sake. Paintings of rural settings were usually idealized; being well tended gardens, or Arcadian myths of Greek and Rome.

Looking back over the characteristics I have discussed, one cal readily see that despite the fact that Romanticism was not nearly as coherent a movement as the Enlightenment, it was even more successful in changing history, changing the definition of what it means to be human. Ladies and gentlemen, I hope that my discussion of Romanticism, with an emphasis on Goya’s painting, has educated you by furthering your scope of art history. The Romantic Era played such a prominent role in shaping 18th century art, as well as many centuries to follow. I appreciate for your interest and awareness of the subject of my presentation, and look forward to speaking to you again in the future. Thank you, and good day.


Schneider Adams, Laurie. Art Across Time, The 14th Century to the Present. Volume II, Second

Edition, (New York John Jay College and the Graduate City University, 00), 75-776.

Light, Fred. Goya in Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey Prentice Hall, 17.

Harney, David P. The Challenge of Coleridge; Ethics and Interpretation in Romanticism and Modern Philosophy. Pennsylvania State University Press, 001.

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