Saturn

October 31, 2020
Saturn

Jacek Dehnel has written a fictionalised account of the lastyears of the lives of Goya, Javier and Javier's son Mariano,working on the basis that Javier did indeed paint the BlackPaintings, and it makes for a fascinating read. The bookinterweaves first person diary-style accounts from each of thethree men; the embittered Francisco, the other-worldly and confusedJavier and the scheming Mariano. As the book progresses a verycredible story builds up which includes Javier beginning to paintthe first few of these 14 paintings. The relationship between thethree men is deeply flawed. Francisco seems to have taken a disliketo his son from the start. Javier did not want to paint with hisfather and he reacted badly to Francisco's outbursts of anger andhis erratic lifestyle. Francisco writes of his son, " He drew likea woman. For he grew more and more like a woman altogether . . . hejust crept about the house with his nose eternally in a book, paleand unhealthy . . . he always sat on a mule or a horse like a sack,nor would he go to the bullfight – he avoided me, hid in corners.'Francisco on the other hand was a riotous, philandering, boastfulman who saw every woman as a potential conquest, even trying toseduce Javier's young wife soon after Javier brought her to live inthe family home. When the book opens, Francisco has achievedconsiderable success and the family is wealthy, living in somestyle. The house is full of expensive art materials, many of themtoxic, and as we read the alternating voices of the Francisco andJavier we gain an impression of an artistic chaos which does nobodyany good, but which provides fertile ground for a sort of torturedcreativity which goes some way to explaining the choice of thethemes of the Black Paintings. The book includes black and whitereproductions of the fourteen paintings with a brief "ekphrasis" ofeach one (I had to look up ekphrasis – apparently it is a graphic,often dramatic description of a work of art). These are done ratherwell.' The Common Reader Blog