Saturday 31 October 2015

Goya: The Portraits.  The National Portrait Gallery

(7 October 2015 – 10 January 2016)


The Exhibition:


The exhibition is in the basement of the Sainsbury Wing.  It comprised 7 rooms.  It was heaving!  There did not appear to be any ventilation (admittedly this may have been to ensure that the temperature remained constant to safeguard the paintings.)  Nevertheless is was crowed – the most crowded exhibition I have been to, it proved quite a job to jostle my way past people to see a painting and had to move several times to dodge viewers who walked up and positioned themselves right in front of me – this happened a number of times!


The Paintings Exhibited:


A fantastic collection of paintings!  The exhibition was divided into chronological order starting from Goya’s early portraits through to paintings of the Spanish aristocracy, the Spanish Enlightenment, portraits of the Spanish court and governments to friends and associates and his final years in France.


It total there were 71 portraits, which is a considerable number of have on loan.  The exhibition was 10 years in the making with a number on loan from the Prado in Madrid.


Notable works included a full-length portrait of ‘The Duchess of Alba’.  Her image is used on the advertising of the exhibition.  She isn’t depicted as beautiful but radiates an aura and charisma.  Her mantilla and black costume are striking. 


There was a video playing in one room.  The curator discussed what made Goya an exceptional artist: the depth of the person in the portraits, and psychology.

I thought they were an exceptional collection of paintings. 

When I viewed the portrait of, say the Duke of Wellington; I felt I was face to face with the great man who defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo and went on to be an extraordinary statesman. 

The portrait of ‘Antonia Zarate’ conveyed a profound depth and realism.


Goya’s Portrait of Dona Isabel de Porcel:


This picture was exhibited in the main building.  There was no significant indication that there was a mini exhibition relating to Goya in the Sainsbuy Wing that I could see. 

I think it is a shame that is was not located in the Sainsbury Wing also.


The painting was located in a dimly lit room with numerous panels describing the difficulty in authenticating this painting and also the image that appears underneath the painting.  This was an interesting conclusion to the exhibition, though I came across it quite by chance.  Despite this, it is well worth visiting this exhibition to see so many portraits by Goya in one exhibition.