Several English artists worked in a romantic style, in spite of the British
preference for biting satire and stately, academic portraits. John Henry
Fuseli’s The Nightmare, for example, shows a young woman swooning
in her sleep and haunted by fiends from her imagination. Even more
remarkable is the work of the writer and artist William Blake, who
imagined a whole mythology that expressed his fears about the
civilization of his time. Although he was trained as an engraver, Blake
developed a new printmaking technique (he said it was shown to him
in a dream), which used acid to cut around his written and drawn lines.
His many books, like Europe: A Prophecy, are hand-colored and
illustrated with visionary forms derived from medieval and Renaissance
art.
GOYA
The work of the Spanish artist Francisco Goya y Lucientes bridged the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Goya worked for the court in Madrid through much of his life, and some of his earliest work for the court
included tapestry cartoons in a light-hearted rococo manner and copies of the paintings by Velázquez in the
royal collection. Goya went deaf in 1793, and afterward his work—especially pieces he did for himself
rather than his royal patrons—became more fantastic and imaginative. His etchings were first to show the
characteristics we associate with romanticism. The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters shows a man of the
Enlightenment (probably Goya himself) asleep while animals associated with darkness, nightmares, and
witchcraft—bats, owls, and cats—swirl around him. The etching is part of the series called Los Caprichos,
in which Goya used monstrous animal forms and human caricatures to comment on the foolishness he saw
in society. A later series of prints, the Disasters of War, chronicles with brutal directness the horrors of the
Peninsular War (1808–1814) in which Napoleon’s troops overran Spain. An episode from that war became
the subject of one of Goya’s most famous paintings, the Third of May, 1808. The large canvas depicts the
citizens of Madrid who were massacred by French troops at the beginning of the conflict. Goya’s work
shows every variation of the victims’ emotions, from defiance to despair, and contrasts them with the
faceless, unfeeling killers. The painting is cast in darkness with only a lantern shedding a spot of light on
the bloody pile of corpses and the next targets. Goya’s brushwork is loose and broad. Many romantic
artists used a painterly technique to convey the urgency of their expressions.
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