Two Old Men Eating Soup

7:00 AM

Francisco Goya, Two Old Men Eating Soup, 1819
By LISA MAEDA

With a title like Two Old Men Eating Soup, one would expect a picture of fragility, even peace. Instead, Francisco Goya paints us a scene straight out of a nightmare. The Black Paintings, a set of 14 murals painted on the walls of Goya's house, evoke horror created from both Goya's illness and sociopolitical views. Contrary to his earlier work, he explores the darkest creative corners of his mind and paints accordingly.

Before, Goya often favored to be passive in times of political strife, despite whatever views he might have held. Years later, he finds himself sick and dying, and the turbulence of the Spanish government only strengthens his distaste for mankind. He channels that distaste into the Black Paintings, a series never meant for the public eye. Twice had he fallen into severe sickness, and those near-death experiences loom over him as he paints. Violence, witchcraft, and corruption set the standard of these murals, derived from Goya's severe perceptions of those around him.

Two Old Men Eating Soup is the smallest of the series, sitting above the door frame to the dining hall. Like unwelcome guests joining you for a meal, they sneer and point to the paintings on their left as if to acknowledge their company. Some speculate that the pair may not be men at all, but witches. Directly to the left of them is Two Old Men, a painting similar in subject but different in nature. An old man grips a cane as another who resembles a pig-like monster, whispers into his ear. Like Two Old Men Eating Soup, Two Old Men features one "normal" looking man and one that could barely be called human, yet both are the same in their respective titles.

Our class took a day to indulge in poetry, and was told to apply a piece to our next blog post. William Blake's The Tyger stood out particularly for it's criticism of a creator. "What immortal hand or eye / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?" asks Blake. Goya's Black Paintings are Blake's tiger. How could the same man who painted the Black Paintings paint gentle, quiet portraits just years before? 

Though Goya's Black Paintings never intended these murals to be seen, I believe they would be best viewed in the long lost house from where they originated. Unfortunately, rejoining these murals, which have been transferred to canvas, with their siblings back to their home would be a near impossible feat. We can only imagine Two Old Men Eating Soup watching the scene of Two Old Men together with devilish geniality. "Accept it. We are one and the same," they cackle. "Man and death."

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