Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Goya: The Dog - Black Paintings 1820-23

You can view Goya's Dog as being submerged, up to its neck, buried in sand, or sinking slowly into quicksand - unable to extricate itself. It raises its head, trying to keep itself "above water". The emptiness of the picture frame above it and the placement of the dog at the base of the painting emphasises its helplessness. 
Alternatively, you can see the dog as hiding behind a ridge, trying to hide and protect itself. It raises its head looking up at the impending danger from above – which might be some kind of landfall, flood or storm. And now the depth of the upper area suggests the overwhelming nature of whatever the threat is.
Either way, it is a picture about survival in the face of hopeless doom. Whether the danger comes from below or from above, the picture tells us there is no escape. Simple, but in so many ways one of the most powerful of Goya's Black Paintings and one which speaks volumes on his views at the time. These last works by Goya show the crossover between traditional and modern as well as the ambiguity of the image and this rightfully places Goya as the first of the Moderns. This work is a brilliant example of that unique positioning in history.
Burn brightly, Pete 

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