Monday, October 19, 2015

Cats in Art: Caprichos - Plate 43: The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (de Goya y Luciendes)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.

Sorry for the delay from my normal Sunday publication date.

Image credit francisodegoya website, Caprichos Plate 43: The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, aquatint and etching; size and holder not specified.

Seems that there's a story about the Los Caprichos series of etchings:

Los Caprichos are a set of 80 prints in aquatint and etching created by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya in 1797 and 1798, and published as an album in 1799. The prints were an artistic experiment: a medium for Goya's condemnation of the universal follies and foolishness in the Spanish society in which he lived. 
The criticisms are far-ranging and acidic; he speaks against the predominance of superstition, the ignorance and inabilities of the various members of the ruling class, pedagogical short-comings, marital mistakes and the decline of rationality. Some of the prints have anticlerical themes. Goya described the series as depicting "the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance or self-interest have made usual".
The work was an enlightened, tour-de-force critique of 18th-century Spain, and humanity in general. The informal style, as well as the depiction of contemporary society found in Caprichos, makes them (and Goya himself) a precursor to the modernist movement almost a century later. The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters in particular has attained an iconic status. 

As I regards this plate, the critters seem to be owls--lots and lots of owls--perhaps an homage to the presumed wisdom of those feathered friends.  But I think I can detect a kitty--the black thing perched on the sleeping man's buttocks.  Now, it may actually be an owl, but since this is Cats in Art, I pronounce the creature to be a cat.  Case closed.

Who knows what de Goya y Luciendes was trying to convey here: too much thinking is not good?  Wise owls (meaning wisdom, perhaps?) can become transformed into terrifying beasts?  Life is to be lived, not just thunk about?

I also promised last week to list a few of the artist's other titles, many of which just sound bizarre.  Here is what I wrote then as a teaser:

The other thing that's cool about de Goya y Lucientes' works as I scrolled through them was his imaginative titles, such as The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.  The paintings I typically feature here in Cats and Art, and in the art world in general, have always, to me, had very measured and conservative titles.
Next week I'll include a list of some more of his zinger titles, along with links to the works so you can see the subject matter.  Here's just one example (unfortunately, sans kitties): Here Comes the Bogey-Man.  I just gotta like the bizarre way this guy thought.

Each painting title is a clickable link:

Why Hide Them?

Unfortunate Events in the Front Seat of the Ring of Madrid

When Day Breaks We Will be Off

Duel With Cudgels

What More Can One Do?

Where is Mama Going?

From any of the links above you can click on The Works button and scroll through some of his images and titles.  It's quite interesting!

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