Blake Gopnik, 'Goya's Last Works' at the Frick Collection (Washington Post, March 12)
Mark Stevens, No Surrender (New York Magazine, March 6)
Michael Kimmelman, Goya, Unflinching, Defied Old Age (New York Times, February 24)
A fat man bends over a commode, looking grim. A deranged man reaches through the bars of his cell as if to escape his own mind. Nearby, two adoring women cuddle on a bed of disembodied heads, human and animal. After all this, the kinky pair of winged devils embracing in midair seems perfectly natural. These caricatures, sketched in black crayon on small sheets of paper, are getting a rare public viewing in "Goya's Last Works" at the Frick Collection in New York. The 50 works, most on loan from U.S. and European collections, were made in the final eight years of the artist's life, after the famous portraits of the dimwitted Bourbon royals and his print series, "Los Caprichos" and the "Disasters of War." [...]She singles out the late Self-Portrait With Dr. Arrieta, which may win the prize as the most disturbing self-portrait in art history. As for other critics, while Blake Gopnik's recent review in the Washington Post takes a few (shallow) shots at Goya's painting without really reviewing the show, Michael Kimmelman's review for the New York Times is the result of better thought and better writing:
Deaf, frail, his greatest work behind him, Goya continued to work every day, experimenting with new techniques and turning out some of the most modern and psychologically revealing portraits of his career. Rejecting formal commissions, he painted friends and family in a spare, clear manner that would become identified with Manet decades later. A self-possessed young architect, Don Tiburcio Perez y Cuerro, emerges from a Rembrandt-black background standing at a three-quarter angle, arms crossed, as curious about us as we are about him. And in an odd, unfinished portrait, the expression on the face of a seated schoolmaster, Manuel Silvela, is so lifelike that he seems about to stand up and speak.
The compact Frick show is sublime. An early French biographer, Laurent Matheron, writing about Goya during his twilight in exile, blew off the late work as "feeble and slack." Matheron must have been blind, or saw pictures now lost. They're certainly not here. I can't recall too many exhibitions on this scale more revelatory. The inspiration for it was one of the Frick's own Goyas, a deceptively fine portrait of a young woman, from 1824, the sort of painting you might miss if you weren't looking closely. The curators, Jonathan Brown and Susan Grace Galassi, decided to spotlight it, and the show naturally grew, but not too much, to include other late works. It has sometimes been said that the sitter for the Frick portrait is Rosario, which isn't too likely since she was 36, and the young woman, flushed, expectant, childishly calm, doesn't look a day over 26. Prim in white gloves and a black dress trimmed in lace, she is swiftly painted in dashing, creamy strokes that pay homage to Goya's hero, Velázquez, at the same time that they bring to mind Manet. He's the automatic association today, Manet having passed on to posterity the look of "modern" painting inherited straight from Goya.I will hopefully be able to see this exhibit later in the spring.