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

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

Lithography was invented by the playwright Aloys Senefelder (1771–1834) between 1796 and 1799. Goya first experimented with the new process in Madrid in 1819 but achieved his greatest success with the medium during his years in Bordeaux. There he benefited from the expertise of the printer Cyprien Gaulon, adapting the technique to his own expressive interests. An idea of his unorthodox working method is captured in the following passage by Antonio de Brugada, a painter from Madrid and companion to Goya in Bordeaux:

The artist worked at his lithographs on his easel, the stone placed like a canvas. He handled the crayons like paintbrushes and never sharpened them. He remained standing, walking backward and forward from moment to moment to judge the effect. He usually covered the whole stone with a uniform gray tint, and then removed the areas that were to be light with a scraper; here a head, a figure, there a horse, a bull. The crayon was then brought back into play to reinforce the shadows and accents, or to indicate figures and give them a sense of movement. . . .

Among the lithographs Goya produced during this period are the Bulls of
Bordeaux — a term devised by Paul Lefort in 1868 for a series of four prints depicting scenes of the corrida (bullfight). Bullfighting was a long-standing interest for Goya, who had treated the subject in a series of etchings called La Tauromaquia (1815–16). The artist seems to have conceived the Bulls of Bordeaux as a commercial venture but was unsuccessful in marketing them. To eyes accustomed to the tidy appearance of the lithographs of the day, the abbreviated forms and rough highlights that characterize these prints may have looked crude and unfinished. Later generations, however, admired the prints’ audacious qualities. In 1857 Charles Baudelaire described them as “admirable plates, vast pictures in miniature.” Although these works were created relatively early in the history of the medium, they are considered masterpieces of lithography.

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