Date: 21 January 2004
Goya is one of the greatest. Hughes a bit of a reactionary critic (he makes trenchant value judgments) with a readable style, and compared to most art writers something of a giant.
There seems to be not much info about what Goya thought and did, besides his paintings, drawings, and prints. So Hughes is left with history and exegesis. Goya, unknowable in his genius, seems to escape biography too. Hughes readings of Goya's paintings are pretty good, making you want to look at them , which is amongst the best things words can do for art.
The book is not coherent only chronological, each chapter reads like a transcription of a lecture, and the humourous asides and colloquial phrases add to this impression. It was written after Hughes near fatal car crash, so perhaps he wrote in fits and starts, and incorporated old notes and essays.
Goya seems lost.. We have his paintings with their intense beauty and life, we have the Prado full of them, we have Spain where some of his vitality can be glimpsed, we have Picasso in the fullness of his imaged celebrity life, we have x-rays and boring art historians