Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kin with Cudgels

Note: This is a paper that I co-wrote with my ex-boyfriend Kyle

I have constantly wondered what emotions lie within a person when they are willing to duel until their or anothers death. Could somebody consider a liberal or conservative way of life so important that they would kill or die protecting it.  I was drawn to Duel with Cudgels by Francisco de Goya a Spanish artist, because it is a brutal duel until death with a twist (the two men are stuck to the earth). It is one of the famous Black Paintings recognized for having cruel, political, and dark themes. Duel with Cudgels especially brings out Goya’s inner conflict with how politics affected the principle of his society, in particular the Spanish Civil War. In1808 Charles IV the father of Ferdinand VII was being forced by a riot to give up his throne, he finally did agree but relinquished his rights to Napoleon only, this caused the 6th of May riots for the reason that the Spanish people did not accept him on the throne. The upper government did but then changed shortly after a battle when they realized that the Spanish could actually resist the French. During this entire time Ferdinand VII was kept away from Madrid by Napoleon. When finally Napoleon realized he was being defeated he agreed to let the next rightful king go back to Spain. When Ferdinand VII was to come back he had to agree to rule under the liberals’ constitution. He agreed but on his way home was convinced by conservatives to retract that by saying it wasn’t a valid constitution because it wasn’t done while he was on the throne. He then declared a new doctrine that would say he had sovereign authority. The Spanish supported him because they felt they had to but didn’t really like him. This was the battle between the liberals and conservative royalist in Spain that caused unrest for many years. The Black Paintings demonstrate a lot of Goyas heartache with what was happening in Spain. They were never meant to be viewed as they were painted on the walls of his home; they are an illustrated diary of his unrest with humanity. Goya uses line, texture, and color in Duel with Cudgels to demonstrate that the internal war of politics is creating a no win situation in Spain.

Significant in the painting is line, the downward curvy directional lines of the hills lead to the dominant point in the painting the two colossus men with cudgels. The rival’s stance makes them in the shape of triangles; they appear to have strength until you reach the bottom half of their legs which have disappeared beneath the ground below the knee. The two men represent “Bitter clashes between monarchists and liberals in northern Spain”[1] both who had significant power and influence during the time. However it seems as though Goya is implying that they are fighting a soulless, self-defeating war because although both have a chance of winning each party will be injured stuck on the land they delivered the cruelty on and will never truly prevail. 

The two men alone in the wilderness mid battle with large primitive textured sticks look merciless to the others pain. The rough, wild texture gives nature an importance in this painting. The exposed landscape “itself seems to shift and turn with each thudding blow” [2] as though the earth was colliding together with a brutal unrelenting force equal to the rhythm of the cudgels force, its only concern being spilled blood. The lack of detail in the faces, and the wrong directions of hands make it seems as though they are just playing a soulless role for the bigger picture of each political party. The harsh quality of the incoming clouds along with how the earth appears to be swallowing up each individual’s leg, feeds to the apprehension of what may happen next. The violence bothered Goya heavily as he didn’t understand how somebody could tear another person apart without selling their soul. The men’s heavy roughed faces follow them on the Black Paintings characters as they appear with hollow eyes and wide mouths, and as big as giants.

The fading light in the clouds is the only light source as it slowly diminishing into the horizon to be a sign of death,” The pale blue sky with the billowing clouds is of an earlier painting but is seamless with the later additions”[3]. The nature is slowly swallowing them whole just like when you die. The only bright color used is the blood red that drips down the man’s face as he was just bashed with a cudgel. It seems as though the shadowy figures don’t even care if the ground is swallowing them in one piece because they are so intent on killing their opponent.  

The two men are like giant factions waging war that will be felt throughout Spain politically and socially. The more this continued the more pain was felt and Goya believes the more soulless these blood thirsty fighters will become as neither will come out on top, it divided a nation and its people for many years.

This self-defeating conflict was a dark and violent time for the Spanish leading to their civil war. Goya’s painting says just that; when countrymen cannot negotiate their differences and fight to the death, all of Spain loses.   

[1] Wright, Patricia. Eyewitness Art: Goya. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1993. Print.

[2] "Francisco Goya: Paintings from the famous Spanish Artist." Painting Tips, Artist Reviews, Selling Art Online and more. Web. 07 Dec. 2009.

[3] "The Significance of Goya's Black Paintings." Ruth Dubb's Portfolio Website. Web. 07 Dec. 2009. .

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