Day in History 16 April – Francisco Goya – Edna Ferber

Francisco_de_GoyaOn this day in 1828, romantic painter and printmaker, the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns, Francisco Goya died of a stroke at the age of 82 in Bordeaux, France.  Born Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes in Fuendetodos, Aragón, Spain, on 30 March 1746.  Throughout the Peninsular War, Goya was court painter to the Spanish Crown, remaining in Madrid, where he painted the portrait of Joseph Bonaparte, pretender to the Spanish throne, and documented the war in the masterpiece of studied ambiguity known as the Desastres de la Guerra.  Through his works he was both a commentator on and chronicler of his era.  The subversive imaginative element in his art, as well as his bold handling of paint, provided a model for the work of artists of later generations.  In February 1819, Goya bought a house, called Quinta del Sordo (“Deaf Man’s House”), and painted many unusual paintings on canvas and on the walls, including references to witchcraft and war.  One of these is the famous work Saturno devorando a su hijo (Saturn Devouring His Son known informally in some circles as Devoration or Saturn Eats His Child) (see below), which displays a Greco-Roman mythological scene of the god Saturn consuming a child, possibly a reference to Spain’s ongoing civil conflicts.  The series has been described as essential to our understanding of the human condition in modern times, just as Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling is essential to understanding the tenor of the 16th century.  At the age of 75, alone and in mental and physical despair, he completed the work as one of his 14, or possibly 15, Black Paintings, all of which were executed in oil directly onto the plaster walls of his house.  Goya did not intend for the paintings to be exhibited and did not write of them.  It was not until around 1874, 46 years after his death, that they were taken down and transferred to a canvas support.  Many of the works apparently were significantly altered during the restoration, and what remain are has been described as crude facsimiles of what Goya painted.  The effects of time on the murals, coupled with the inevitable damage caused by the delicate operation of mounting the crumbling plaster on canvas, meant that most of the murals suffered extensive damage and loss of paint.  Today they are on permanent display at the Museo del Prado, Madrid.  franciscogoyaSan_Antonio_de_la_FloridaThe Final Footprint – Goya was buried in Bordeaux.  In 1919 his remains were transferred to the Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida in Madrid.  The chapel ceiling and dome frescoes were painted by Goya.  In the Oliver Stone film, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Goya’s Saturno devorando a su hijo hangs in the office of Bretton James (Josh Brolin).  James states that this is the 15th Black Painting and that the other 14 are in the Museo del Prado.  Actually, it appears there may be a 15th Black Painting; Heads in a Landscape (Cabezas en un paisaje) (see below).  It may have became separated from the other paintings in the collection and is now in the collection of poet, publisher and art dealer Stanley Moss in New York.

Images of the Black Paintings

He eats his young.
(Saturno devorando a su hijo), Saturn Devouring His Son, 1819-1823
(El perro), The Dog, 1819-1823
(Dos viejos/Un viejo y un fraile), Two Old Men, 1819-1823
(Hombres leyendo), Men Reading, 1819-1823
(Judith y Holofernes), Judith and Holofernes, 1819-1823
(Mujeres riendo), Women Laughing, 1819-1823
Heads in a Landscape (Cabezas en un paisaje)  possibly, the fifteenth Black Painting. It became separated from the other paintings in the collection and is now in the collection of poet, publisher and art dealer Stanley Moss in New York.
A dog looks up.
(Una manola/La Leocadia), Leocadia, 1819-1823
(Átropos/Las Parcas), Atropos (The Fates), 1819-1823
Like wraiths.
(Duelo a garrotazos), Fight with Cudgels, 1819-1823
(Dos viejos comiendo sopa), Two Old Men Eating Soup, 1819-1823
Two men fight each other.
(Vision fantástica/Asmodea), Fantastic Vision, 1819-1823
Two figures at a table.
(Peregrinación a la fuente de San Isidro/Procesión del Santo Oficio), Procession of the Holy Office, 1819-1823
(El Gran Cabrón/Aquelarre), Witches’ Sabbath, 1819-1823
(La romería de San Isidro), A Pilgrimage to San Isidro, 1819-1823

 

On this day in 1968, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, short story writer and playwright, Edna Ferber died from stomach cancer in New York City at the age of 82.  Born on 15 August 1885 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  She was awarded the Pulitzer for her book So Big (1924).  Her novel Show Boat (1926) was made into a Broadway play with music by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.  The book was also made into three films.  The 1951 version starred Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner, and Howard Keel.  And of course, she wrote the novel, Giant (1952), the epic story of the Benedict family and their Reata Ranch in Texas.  The book was made into a Hollywood classic in 1956 starring; Elizabeth Taylor (Leslie Lynnton Benedict), Rock Hudson (Jordan “Bick” Benedict, Jr.) and James Dean (Jett Rink) and featuring Carroll Baker (Luz Benedict, Leslie and Bick’s daughter), Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Mercedes McCambridge (Luz Benedict, Bick’s sister), Dennis Hopper (Jordan “Jordy” Benedict III), Sal Mineo, Rod Taylor and Earl HollimanGiant was the last of  Dean’s three films as a leading actor, and earned him his second and last Academy Award nomination; he was killed in a car accident before the film was released.  The book and the movie are perhaps my very favorites.  Feber never married.  In her early novel Dawn O’Hara (1911), the title character’s aunt is said to have remarked, “Being an old maid was a great deal like death by drowning — a really delightful sensation when you ceased struggling.”  The Final Footprint – Feber was cremated.  A plaque was placed in her honour in Manhattan on the building at 65th Street and Central Park West where she lived for six years.  The plaque reads; “The widely-read novelist, short story writer, and playwright, best known for the novel Giant (1952), lived here from 1923 to 1929.  Ferber’s fiction is distinquished by larger-than-life stories, strong female characters, and distinctive renderings of Amercian settings.  Two of her novels were published while she lived here:  the Pulitzer Prize-winning So Big (1924), and Show Boat (1926).”

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