deaf, ill goya: the best

“I have no eyesight, pulse, pen or ink,” wrote the elderly Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, half-jokingly, in a letter to a friend. “The only thing I have in excess is willpower.” No doubt the painter meant that, despite the infirmities of age, he was still producing pictures. But anyone who sees “Goya’s Last Works” at the Frick Collection will sense something nobler than endurance in those wry lines. Goya, as he neared death, made no compromises: There was no wavering of the eye, no softening of the sensibility. He remained as committed as ever—relentlessly so, joyfully so—to the revelatory truth. No picture hides behind visual rhetoric. Each seems freshly won.

In 1824, at the age of 78, the deaf and increasingly frail artist had settled in Bordeaux, joining the expatriates who had fled there from the autocratic Spanish regime. Most of the 50 pictures in this wonderful show come from the four years of exile before his death in 1828. In the Frick’s twin basement galleries, the curators Jonathan Brown and Susan Grace Galassi have placed painted portraits in one room and drawings and ivories in the other. (Lithographs are upstairs.) None of the celebrated black paintings usually associated with late Goya is on view—he made them in Spain shortly before he went into exile—but their spirit is present, especially in certain tiny ivories of large feeling: Man Looking for Fleas in His Shirt, pictured here, measures only 2 3/8 by 2 5/16 inches.

more from New York magazine here.

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