Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
As if taking Marx’s famous observation to heart, a number of contemporary artists have appropriated Francisco Goya’s darkly satirical prints to serve their own commentaries on human folly. Jake and Dinos Chapman have amplified the morbidity and degeneracy found in Goya to the point of infamy; the Japanese conceptual photographer Yasumasa Morimura has drawn on Goya’s Romantic aesthetic in a series of elaborate self-portraits that mimic the master’s compositions; and sculptors Rona Pondick and Thomas Schütte have repurposed Goya’s psychological dramas with their own caricatured fiends and beasts.2 Enrique Chagoya, however, is the artist who has most effectively demonstrated the uncanny relevance of Goya’s political satire to our own times. Since 1983, he has faithfully recreated over 30 Goya etchings, altering each by deft substitutions that pinpoint our own social ills. Chagoya’s Goyas are decidedly farcical, but his savage political wit and his reverence for the original works have produced a graphically compelling and poignantly acerbic body of work.
Goya’s three great suites of etchings—Caprichos (Caprices) (1797-98),3 the so-called Desastres de la Guerra (Disasters of War) (1810-14 and 1820-23),4 and Disparates/ Proverbios (Follies/Proverbs) (ca. 1816-17)—are some of the most lastingly influential works in the history of prints.5 Painter to the Spanish court during the last gasp of the Inquisition, Goya turned to the intimate media of drawing and prints to express his personal views, refining his ideas and compositions in sketchbooks that he later translated into etchings.6 The 80 etchings of the Caprichos, which first appeared in 1799, mocked the backwardness of Spanish culture, the nobility, the government and the Church, and were almost immediately withdrawn from publication. The Desastres, a loosely related group of 85 etchings that portrayed the effects of the Peninsular War between Napoleonic France and Spain, was considered too lurid for the time, and the plates sat in storage until 1863 when they were finally published, 35 years after Goya’s death.The more lyrical Disparates expanded on the allegorical language of the Caprichos: the compositions are larger and more complex, the artist’s intentions more veiled, and the use of etching techniques more sophisticated. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes both, Goya’s prints were revolutionary in being simultaneously satirical and profound.7
Enrique Chagoya’s first serious encounter with these prints occurred in 1983 when he was an undergraduate at the San Francisco Art Institute taking a course on the history of printmaking with Robert Flynn Johnson, curator at the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts. Johnson taught from the collection, and the final assignment could be either a paper or a work of art. Chagoya submitted an intaglio print that replicated plate 71 of Goya’s Desastres—Contra el bien general (Against the common good)— but gave Goya’s bat-winged monster the face of Ronald Reagan (Fig. 1). “I already vaguely had this idea of making Reagan one of Goya’s demons,” Chagoya recalls. But it was in Johnson’s class that he was inspired, not simply to borrow Goya’s iconography, but to make “a print that would look like Goya’s print with Reagan as the central character. It was a very exciting feeling.”8
Chagoya has returned to this format again and again over the course of his career: his most recent portfolio of etchings after Caprichos appeared this spring. Of his 34 intaglio prints after Goya, all but two carefully reproduce the dimensions and appearance of the originals, including plate numbers and collection stamps (the remaining pair are original compositions with Goya-esque motifs). These works have appeared as both stand-alone prints and in portfolios; almost half derive from Caprichos, more than a dozen from Desastres, and three mimic iconic images from Disparates. [See the checklist at the end of this article for a full listing and correlation to the Goyas.] While his subjects have changed down the years— from Reagan to Monica Lewinsky to Dick Cheney to Barack Obama—Chagoya’s themes remain Goya’s themes: corruption, scandalous behavior in the Church, extremes of poverty and wealth, atrocities of war, and an upper class tainted by decadence and self-satisfaction. (The fact that Reagan’s head supplants that of a demon while Obama’s replaces that of a beautiful young woman is indicative of the artist’s political sympathies, which Goya would likely have shared.)9
Chagoya has also made occasional prints after other artists, including José Posada, Jacques Callot and George Cruikshank. These appropriations fit into the body of political and social-satirical works he makes in various media. They stand apart from his other main body of work, the “reverse anthropology” pseudo-artifacts, mainly codices and lithographs, that purport to document an alternate history in which Mesoamericans vanquished the conquistadors and exerted cultural hegemony [see Art in Print, Vol. 1, No. 6].10
Chagoya has been fascinated with the art of forgery since childhood. In a recent discussion, he emphasized the impact of his father’s work on his own: as an officer in the department of criminology at the central bank of Mexico, the elder Chagoya kept examples of counterfeit currency, including intaglio plates, in his office and related intriguing tales to his son about the men who had made them.11 To make Contra el bien general, Chagoya carefully examined the original at the Achenbach and reproduced its facture as closely as possible, a process that has remained relatively consistent over the past three decades (for the series published this year, he examined impressions at the Prado).((Ibid. )) He begins with plates that are about 1/16 inch longer in each dimension than the platemarks on the original impressions, to compensate for later shrinkage in the paper. He then traces the image from a Dover Publications book that reproduces Goya prints true-to-scale, flips the tracing over to compensate for the left-right reversal of printing, and using a sheet of transfer paper, traces the outlines of the image onto the grounded plate. Finally, he draws directly with a stylus on the plate while carefully observing a reversed image of the original, copying Goya’s original marks as closely as possible. (Chagoya believes that masterful technique is fundamental to the success of his art.)12 This is where the true magic of simulation comes into play:
The [next] stage is to eyeball [Goya’s] cross-hatching lines and try to match them. Here I realized that the only way I could get close to his lines was by shaking my hand while drawing them, otherwise my lines would be too straight, and I concluded that by the time Goya made his etchings he had to have [had] a shaky hand. It was a weird revelation, and perhaps my closest communication with Goya’s ghost…. I love the shaky lines; they are more beautiful than straight lines. It was a drawing lesson Goya taught me … quite a revelation for my formative years as a printmaker.13
The lines are then etched to varying degrees in accordance with Chagoya’s notes on the original. After that, the plate is re-grounded and re-etched to perfect nuances of line. Finally, aquatint ground is applied, often using a shaker as Goya did, and stopped-out or etched as appropriate to particular passages.
In another early etching (1986-87/2003) adapted from the Desastres—Estragos de la guerra (Ravages of war) (Fig. 2)—the only change made to Goya’s image of bodies tumbling into a shattered interior was the replacement of a fallen armchair with a television, which reappears in the lower margin in a red stamp, where its screen reads “THIS IS NOT A TEST.” The Desastres depicts events Goya either witnessed or heard about by word of mouth, and they marked a radical departure from earlier war images in their emphasis on the experiences of “nameless individuals.”14 Chagoya’s insertion of the two televisions comments on the familiarity of such horrors in modern media, and the necessity emergency broadcasts to rouse us to action.
Red stamps like the one in Estragos de la guerra appear on most of Chagoya’s Goya prints. They are modeled on collection marks stamped on original Goya impressions by the Biblioteca Nacional de España during the fascist dictatorship of Generalísimo Francisco Franco.15 Chagoya felt that the marks were “an insult to Goya’s integrity because he would have been so opposed to Franco.”16 Unlike the monotonous blue collection marks of the Biblioteca Nacional, Chagoya’s stamps are tailored to each image to provide further commentary on the content. The combination of black and red has become a signature of Chagoya’s satirical-political works, purposefully echoing the colors of pre-Colombian texts, Russian Constructivist design and myriad 20th century political protest posters.17
Humor is essential to farce—Chagoya has said he has “tried to pick the Goya images that would give me room [to do] something funny.”18 He has indulged in verbal and visual puns: Contra el bien general alluded to the Iran-Contra scandal under Reagan; Linda maestra! (A fine teacher!) (1999) (Fig. 3) shows Monica Lewinsky on a broom with her mentor and betrayer Linda Tripp. (The tapes of Lewinsky’s conversations with President Clinton play a cameo role in the red stamp below.) Chagoya’s humor can also alleviate what Shifra Goldman calls the “bitterness” of Goya’s original compositions.19 Goya’s original miser in Porque esconderlos? (Why hide them?), clutching a bag of gold that he is about to lose to a sneering aristocrat, is a figure of pathos, but in Chagoya’s rendition (2012/13) the viewer can laugh at the decrepit old man who desperately grasps his Damien Hirst dot painting (Fig. 4)—an insider’s joke on the inflated market for contemporary art.
Bringing things into our own times can also work to make terror more visceral and real. In Que viene el Coco (Here comes the Bogeyman) (1999), Chagoya replaces Goya’s imaginary monster with a real one—Louisiana state representative and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke (Fig. 5). Chagoya has twice reworked the famous El sueño de la razon produce monstrous (The sleep of reason produces monsters): in Return to Goya’s Caprichos (1999), the bats, owls and cats that rain down on Goya’s sleeping artist become Tomahawk missiles, Stealth bombers and Apache helicopters. In Recurrent Goya (2012/13), the artist sleeps amid mushroom clouds, fireballs and burning artwork.
In early impressions of Contra el bien general, Chagoya signed his name with a capital “G” in the middle, emphasizing the great name embedded within his own, but he is clear about who holds the upper hand. The opening plate of the Recurrent Goya suite is based on the famous self-portrait that formed the frontispiece of Goya’s Caprichos (Fig. 6). Chagoya put his own face under Goya’s familiar top hat, but the dimensions of the head are considerably shrunk, or perhaps the hat is larger (or both). Where the original (Fig. 7) asserted the name of the artist in elegant script, Chagoya has written Grande el Sombrero (Hat’s too Big), a Spanish expression equivalent to the English “big shoes to fill.” In his two original Goya-inspired compositions—Self-portrait with Goya’s Shoe (1987/2003) (Fig. 8) and Goya conoce a Posada (Goya meets Posada) (1987/2003) (Fig. 9)—Chagoya again acknowledges his debt: in one he merged the two names in florid lettering that reads “Enrique Cha____goya”; in the other, Goya shakes hands with the great 19th-century Mexican printmaker José Posada while a masked, imp-like Chagoya scurries below on roller skates.20 Finally, in Ni mas ni menos (Neither more nor less) (1999), Chagoya places his own head on the body of the monkey who, in Goya’s print, is busy painting a portrait of a donkey. Chagoya explains, “It’s kind of a disclaimer, but also I am a subject of my own satires, just to say that I am not pointing fingers at others without pointing the finger at myself, too.”21
Chagoya does indeed point fingers at others: Ronald Reagan, Jerry Falwell, Jesse Helms, Fidel Castro, Dick Cheney, Rupert Murdoch and Pope Benedict XVI have all been lampooned in his prints, much as Goya savaged the queen, the prime minister and other identifiable figures of his time.22 And just as Goya employed common social types and tropes (the foolish miser, the vain old woman, the greedy aristocrat), Chagoya employs contemporary pop cultural archetypes to carry his meanings.
Chagoya’s “Mexicanized” version of Rat Fink, the hot-rod counter-culture icon created by “Big Daddy” Ed Roth, appears frequently in the artist’s work. For Chagoya, DC Comics and Disney characters like Mickey Mouse represent the worldwide dominance of American popular culture and symbolize the privileged vantage point from which Americans relate to the world, while Rat Fink represents how Mexicans have been portrayed.23 A caza de dientes (Out hunting for teeth) is one of the most visceral of the Caprichos, with its depiction of a young woman recoiling as she removes teeth from the mouth of a hanging corpse; Chagoya gives the two parts to Snow White and Rat Fink. Goya’s Aquellos polbos shows a prisoner being tried by the Inquisition before a jeering crowd; Chagoya puts Rat Fink in the dock, turning the auto de fé into a meditation on prejudice (Fig. 10). In Goya’s print, the European identity of the crowd is of no consequence, but here it creates a racial and cultural divide between the prisoner and his tormentors.
Chagoya’s repurposed Goyas reveal that the essential dramas and injustices of 18th-century Spain are still being played out today; only the actors’ names have changed. Politics is still rife with corruption; greed still dictates personal interactions; the powerful still prey on the weak. In Goya’s Tu que no puedes (Thou who canst not), two men strain under the weight of donkeys they carry on their backs; the donkeys represent the upper classes and the image has long been understood as a comment on the unequal distribution of labor. In Recurrent Goya (2012/13) (Fig. 11), Chagoya swaps one donkey for an elephant so each man carries a mascot of an American political party; the image retains Goya’s original message but further implies that the current gridlock between Democrats and Republicans places an undue burden on the citizenry. Chagoya explains the stamp below as “a cake of money … the birthday of corruption,” an icon of the big money behind politics.24 In Quien mas rendido? (Which of them is the more overcome?) (1999), Chagoya takes Goya’s prostitute and client and replaces them with two black-suited financiers. The bowing gentleman’s hat becomes a briefcase, a gossip with a fan becomes a woman with a cell phone, and the lap dogs are accompanied by a BMW. Above the canines, Chagoya has added a speech bubble that reads: “Your ad en Espagñol here.”
Abuse scandals in the Catholic Church have given Chagoya reason to revive Goya’s criticism of the clergy. (Chagoya, who was raised Catholic, says he respects the faith but not corruption.25) In Que se rompe la cuerda (The rope is fraying) (1986-87/2003), Goya’s priest balancing on a tightrope over a crowd becomes Pope John Paul II in a miter. Goya was trying to dramatize the dangerous involvement of the Church in contemporary power struggles,26 and Chagoya takes a similarly negative view of John Paul II and his regressive attitude toward women, birth control and homosexuality. In his 2012/13 print Mucho hay que chupar (There is plenty to suck), Chagoya addresses himself to the pedophilia scandals in the Church: Pope Benedict XVI takes the place of Goya’s ghoul in robes, smacking his lips in delight over a basket of baby dolls, a feast he is about to share with his repugnant cohorts while bats hover ominously. (Interestingly, Goya’s image may itself have been a criticism of child abuse in the Church: an annotation made in Goya’s time notes, “Those who reach eighty suck little children.”)27
Events today, Chagoya believes, “are more extreme than in Goya’s times. We are on the edge of many possible worldwide catastrophic events …. Threatening situations created by humans (anthropogenic), both natural and political, seem to be occurring more frequently … We are polluting the oceans, the skies, and the earth … We have more power and weapons… [Finally,] the income gap between working classes and financial elites in this country and in most of the world seems to be bigger than ever.”28 While Marx’s comment suggests that tragedy is the ancestor of farce, Goya and Chagoya both know them to be twins. The flaws of human nature are eternal, tragic, farcical and—at any given moment in time—topical. In one sense, however, Marx’s observation holds true: for us at least, Goya’s humor is of the blackest sort, while Chagoya’s can provoke an outright guffaw.
- Karl Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” inThe Karl Marx Library, vol. 1, ed. and trans. Saul K. Padover (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972), 245; retrieved from the Marxists Internet Archive.
- See Cordélia Hattori et al., Goya, Les Caprices & Chapman, Morimura, Pondick, Schütte (Paris: Somogy Editions d’Art/Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille, 2008). For a discussion of the Chapman brothers’ Goya obsession, see Christopher Turner, “‘I’d like to have stepped on Goya’s toes, shouted in his ears and punched his face’: Jake and Dinos Chapman,” Tate Etc. 8 (Autumn 2006).
- The Davison Art Center at Wesleyan University offers high-resolution images of the entire suite of the Caprichos on their website.
- The actual title is Fatales consequencias de la sangrienta guerra en España con Buonaparte. Y otros caprichos enfaticos (The terrible results of the bloody war in Spain against Bonaparte. And other emphatic caprices).
- Dates given here note when Goya is believed to have worked on the plates, not when they were published.
- On the relationship between Goya’s prints and drawings, see Eleanor A. Sayre, “Introduction to the Prints and Drawings Series,” in Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez, Sayre et al., Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1989), xcv–cxxvii.
- Neither of these sets was successfully published during Goya’s lifetime so there are many difficulties with their documentation. The number of Desastres plates is now 80, but five were lost before publication. One surviving album from Goya’s time clarifies the order and titles, but no such record exists for the Disparates, nor do we know whether its 22 plates are complete.
- Moira Roth, “Interview” in Roth and Robbin Legere Henderson, Enrique Chagoya: When Paradise Arrived (New York: Alternative Museum, 1989), 11. Accessed online.
- On Goya’s liberal politics, see Nigel Glendinning, “Art and Enlightenment in Goya’s Circle,” in Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment, lxiv–lxxvi.
- On Chagoya and Posada, see Shifra Goldman, “The Subversive Vocabulary of Enrique Chagoya,” in Steven H. High et al., Enrique Chagoya: Locked in Paradise (Reno: Nevada Museum of Art, 2000), 15–18. On the print after Cruikshank, see Constance C. McPhee and Nadine Orenstein, Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011), 193, 204 (cat. 160). On “reverse anthropology,” see Patricia Hickson, “Borderlandia Unbound,” in Hickson, Robert Storr, and Daniela Pérez, Enrique Chagoya: Borderlandia (Des Moines: Des Moines Art Center, 2007), 2. Accessed online.
- Enrique Chagoya, “Read between the Lines: A Conversation between Enrique Chagoya and Dr. Jason Mayler” (Lecture, Haggerty Museum, Marquette University, Jan. 30, 2013), DVD.
- See Diane Deming, “Interview with Enrique Chagoya,” in Locked in Paradise, 65–66.
- Email 2 April 2013.
- See Sayre in Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment, cix–cx; also Juliet Wilson Bareau, Goya’s Prints: The Thomás Harris Collection in the British Museum (London: British Museum Publications, 1981), 46–50.
- Prior to 2008, Chagoya made these marks with rubber stamps; he later used lithography on one print (checklist 9) before switching to letterpress on the suggestion of ULAE Master Printer Bill Goldston. Two of his prints after Goya (checklist 11 and 12) bear no red stamp. For information on the collection stamps of the Biblioteca Nacional see Lugt 4110, also generally placed at the lower center margin; for more information, click here (French only).
- When Paradise Arrived, 12.
- Ibid., 10; and Borderlandia, 1.
- When Paradise Arrived, 13.
- Locked in Paradise, 20.
- Ibid., 15–18, for further discussion, see When Paradise Arrived, 25–26.
- Email 25 March 2013.
- For a summary of efforts to pin down specific cultural references in Goya’s prints, see Andrew Schulz, Goya’s Caprichos: Aesthetics, Perception, and the Body (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); in-depth investigations of images and individuals can also be found throughout Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment.
- For further discussion, see Locked in Paradise, 10–12; and Borderlandia, 1.
- Email 25 March 2013.
- See catalogue entry in Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment, 356–358.
- Lucia P. Iannone et al., Goya: Los Caprichos: An Exhibition from the Collection of Mr. Arthur Ross, Yale University Art Gallery, September 16– November 15, 1981 (New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1981), 28.
- Email 25 March 2013.