The Frick Collection
Goya's Last Works
Special Exhibition: Goya's Last Works —The Bordeaux Albums

Self-Portraits and Portraits | The Bordeaux Albums| Miniatures on Ivory | The Bordeaux Lithographs

Drawing was a fundamental part of Goya’s art. In Bordeaux, it was his primary mode of expression. The nine hundred or so drawings he made over his lifetime fall into two categories: preparatory studies for works in other media (primarily his series of prints), and private exercises. The latter were collected into albums by Goya, or by others after his death. They are conventionally lettered A through H. Goya began to make his album drawings not long after losing his hearing, when he was cut off from normal communication through conversation. They have been described as a form of “talking to himself.” They may also have been made to entertain his friends. The last two of his eight albums, known as G and H, date from his Bordeaux years, and a selection from them is presented here.

In his Bordeaux albums, Goya abandoned the medium of pen, brush, and ink he had used in earlier private drawings in favor of black crayon—a choice undoubtedly inspired by his work in lithography. This softer medium allowed for greater breadth of execution and compensated for a certain loss of manual dexterity. The drawings from Album G are inscribed with short, enigmatic texts, as in most of the earlier albums; in Album H he signed the sheets but wrote inscriptions on only six. The figural style here is energetic and cartoonish, rather than classical and correct. Flashes of satire and mockery — recalling the spirit of his famous prints, Los Caprichos — run through the sheets. These intimate, freely executed works draw us into the artist’s stream of consciousness as he reacts to novel sights in Bordeaux, revisits long-standing themes, and conjures enigmatic images out of his imagination to puzzle his friends. The variety of expressive effects that Goya extracts from his versatile black crayon as it hovers over textured paper attest to his undiminished powers as a draftsman up to the very end.

For more information about the works of art included in the exhibition and to see the related images, click on the following links: