Antonio Saura

Imaginary Portrait of Goya


Not on display

Antonio Saura 1930–1998
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1295 × 965 mm
frame: 1352 × 1024 × 76 mm
Purchased 1966

Display caption

Goya’s painting of a dog’s head peering upwards from behind a slope, painted directly onto the walls of his house, was the inspiration for Saura’s Imaginary Portrait of Goya. Saura explained: ‘I have always thought of this head as Goya himself watching “something happen”’. While evoking a great national tradition, this portrait may have been quietly subversive. Goya was famous as a witness to the corruption and barbarities of the Napoleonic invasion. Saura, painting at a time when General Franco still ruled Spain, invoked this spirit but turned the watching head outwards on the contemporary world.

Gallery label, July 2012

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Catalogue entry

Antonio Saura born 1930

T00866 Imaginary Portrait of Goya 1966

Inscribed 'Saura | 66' t.l.
Oil on canvas, 51 x 38 (130 x 97)
Purchased from the artist through the ICA (Mara Savic Bequest) 1966
Exh: Saura, ICA, London, June-July 1966 (11)

One of a series of imaginary portraits of Goya inspired by Goya's mysterious late painting of the head of a dog peering over a rock in a deserted landscape (or perhaps a dog buried up to its neck in sand). The artist writes (2 July 1969) that 'The point of departure for this series was the Goya "Dog appearing" from the series of Black Paintings in the Prado, a work which had fascinated me since childhood. This image has however always been associated in my mind with others such as the birth of a child at the moment of emerging from its mother's womb, or more recently of an astronaut emerging from his capsule. This deserted landscape, or this wall, is above all a "space" from which a being emerges. And I have always thought of this head as Goya himself watching "something happen".'

He finds it impossible to say how many works have been made altogether on this theme as here were also a number of drawings, gouaches and oils on paper; as far as he can remember the earliest dates from 1959. (The catalogue of the New Spanish Painting and Sculpture exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1960 lists and reproduces a version in oil of 1959-60).

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.671, reproduced p.671

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