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In 1792, when he was forty-seven, the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya contracted a serious illness that left him stone deaf. In this extraordinary book, Julia Blackburn follows Goya through the remaining thirty-five years of his life. It was a time of political turmoil, of war, violence, and confusion, and Goya transformed what he saw around him into visionary paintings, drawings, and etchings. These were also years of tenderness for Goya, of intimate relationships with the Duchess of Alba and with Leocadia, his mistress, who accompanied him to the end.

Blackburn’s singular distinction as a biographer is her uncanny ability to create a kaleidoscope of biography, memoir, history, and meditation—to think herself into another world. In Goya she has found the perfect subject. Visiting the towns Goya frequented, reading the revelatory letters that he wrote for years to a boyhood friend, investigating the subjects he portrayed, Julia Blackburn writes about the elderly painter with the intimacy of an old friend, seeing through his eyes and sharing the silence in his head.

With unprecedented immediacy and illumination, Old Man Goya gives us an unparalleled portrait of the artist.
Published: Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780307829207
List price: $9.99
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What Julia Blackburn does so well here is to take the later life of the Spanish artist Goya and place in the context of his times. Though he left letters, very little is known of Goya's day to day existence. But Blackburn can adroitly dance around this deficiency by speaking in detail about Charles IV and court in which Goya had such high standing. She describes, in detail, his printmaking process, the materials he used, his manner of proceeding in great and fascinating detail. Throughout are photos of the original copper plates Goya used in making the "Caprichos" and "Disparates" print series, not the actual prints themselves. This is an interesting choice and serves as a metaphor for what Blackburn seeks to do in her book; that is, to give us a detailed mirror image of Goya's life and times--nothing like a straightforward biography--with elements of the writer's personal memoir, late 18th and early 19th century Spanish history, regional customs, period dress, royal peccadilloes, and the social critique that was so central to her subject's work.more

Reviews

What Julia Blackburn does so well here is to take the later life of the Spanish artist Goya and place in the context of his times. Though he left letters, very little is known of Goya's day to day existence. But Blackburn can adroitly dance around this deficiency by speaking in detail about Charles IV and court in which Goya had such high standing. She describes, in detail, his printmaking process, the materials he used, his manner of proceeding in great and fascinating detail. Throughout are photos of the original copper plates Goya used in making the "Caprichos" and "Disparates" print series, not the actual prints themselves. This is an interesting choice and serves as a metaphor for what Blackburn seeks to do in her book; that is, to give us a detailed mirror image of Goya's life and times--nothing like a straightforward biography--with elements of the writer's personal memoir, late 18th and early 19th century Spanish history, regional customs, period dress, royal peccadilloes, and the social critique that was so central to her subject's work.more
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