Appendix 1: Goya’s Address to the Royal Academy of San Fernando Regarding the Method of Teaching the Visual Arts
Ex.mo S.or
Cumpliendo por mi parte con la Orden de V.E. para que cada uno de nosotros exponga lo que tenga por conveniente sobre el Estudio de las Artes, digo: Que las Academias, no deben ser privativas, ni servir mas que de Auxîlio á los que libremente quieren estudiar en ellas, desterrando toda sugecion servil de Escuela de Niños, preceptos mecanicos, premios mensuales, ayudas de costa, y otras pequeñeces que envilecen, y afeminan un Arte tan liberal y noble como es la Pintura; tampoco se debe prefijar tiempo de que estudien Geometria, ni Perspectiva para vencer dificultades en el dibujo, que este mismo las pide necesariamente à su tiempo à los que descubren disposicion, y talento, y quanto mas adelantados en èl, mas facilmente consiguen la ciencia en las demas Artes, como tenemos los exemplares delos que mas han subido en este punto, que no los cito por ser cosa tan notoria. Daré una prueva para demostrar con hechos, que no hay reglas en la Pintura, y que la opresion, ú obligacion servil de hacer estudiar ó seguir á todos por un mismo Camino, es un grande impedimento á los Jovenes que profesan este arte tan dificil, que toca mas en lo Divino que ningun otro, por significar quanto Dios há criado; el que mas se haya acercado podra dar pocas reglas delas profundas funciones del entendimiento que para esto se necesitan, ni decir en que consiste haber sido mas feliz tal vez en la obra de menos cuidado, que en la de mayor esmero; que profundo, é impenetrable arcano se encierra en la imitacion de la divina naturaleza, que sin ella nada hay bueno, no solo en la Pintura (que no tiene otro oficio que su puntual imitacion) sino en las demas ciencias!
Anibal Carche [sic], resucitó la Pintura que desde el tiempo de Rafael estaba decaida; con la liberalidad de su genio, dio á luz mas discipulos, y mejores que quantos Profesores há habido, dejando á cada uno correr por donde su espiritu le inclinaba, sin precisar á ninguno á seguir su estilo, ni metodo, poniendo solo aquellas correcciones que se dirigen á conseguir la imitacion dela verdad, y asi se ven los diferentes estilos, de Guido, Guarchino, Andrea, Saqui, Lanfranco, Albano etc.
No puedo dejar de dar otra prueba mas clara. De los Pintores que hemos conocido de mas abilidad, y que mas se han esmerado en enseñar el camino de sus fatigados estilos (segun nos hán dado á entender) ¿Quantos discipulos han sacado? ¿en donde están estos progresos? estas reglas? este metodo? ¿de lo que han escrito se ha conseguido otro adelantam.to mas que interesar á los que no son, ni han podido ser Profesores, con el objeto de que realzasen mas sus obras, y darles amplias facultades para decidir aun á presencia de los inteligentes de una tan sagrada Ciencia que tanto estudio exige (aun de los que han nacido para ella) para entender y discernir lo mejor?
Me es imposible expresar el dolor que me causa el ver correr tal vez la licenciosa, ó eloqüente pluma (que tanto arrastra al no profesor) é incurrir en la debilidad de no conocer á fondo la materia que está tratando; Que escandalo no causará, el oir despreciar la naturaleza en comparacion de las Estatuas Griegas, por quien no conoce ni lo uno, ni lo otro, sin atender q.e la mas pequeña parte de la naturaleza confunde, y admira á los que mas han sabido! ¿Que Estatua ni forma de ella habrá, que no sea copiada de la Divina naturaleza? ¿por mas excelente Profesor que sea el que la haya copiado, dejará de decir á gritos puesta á su lado, que la una es obra de Dios, y la otra de nuestras miserables manos? El que quiera apartarse, y enmendarla sin buscar lo mejor de ella, dejara de incurrir en una manera reprensible monotona de Pinturas, de modelos de Yeso, como ha sucedido á todos los que puntualm.te la han hecho? Parece que me aparto del fin primero, pero nada hay mas preciso, si hubiera remedio, para la actual decadencia de las Artes sino que se sepa que no deben ser arrastradas del poder, ni de la sabiduria de las otras ciencias, y si governadas del merito de ellas, como siempre ha sucedido quanto ha habido grandes ingenios florecientes: entonces cesan los despoticos entusiastas, y nacen los prudentes amadores, que aprecian, veneran, y animan á los que sobresalen, proporcionandoles obras en que puedan adelantar mas su ingenio, ayudandolos con el mayor esfuerzo á producir todo quanto su disposicion promete; esta es la verdadera proteccion delas Artes, y siempre se ha verificado que las Obras han creado los hombres grandes. Por ultimo S.or yo no encuentro otro medio mas eficaz de adelantar las Artes, ni creo que le haya, sino el de premiar y proteger al que despunte en ellas; el de dar mucha estimacion al Profesor que lo sea; y el de dejar en su plena libertad correr el genio delos Discipulos que quieren apenderlas, sin oprimirlo, ni poner medios para torcer la inclinacion que manifiestan á este, ó aquel, estilo, en la Pintura.
He dicho mi parecer, cumpliendo con el encargo de VE, mas si mi mano no govierna la pluma como yo quisiera, para dar a entender lo que comprendo, espero que V.E. la disculpará, pues la hé tenido ocupada toda mi vida deseando conseguir el fruto delo que estoy tratando.
MADRID 14 OCTUBRE DE 1792
[Signed]
Most Excellent Sir
Fulfilling on my behalf Your Excellency’s order that each of us explain what he thinks opportune about the Study of the Arts, I say: That the Academies should not be exclusive, or serve more than as an aid to those who freely wish to study in them, banishing all servile subjection of the primary school, mechanical precepts, monthly prizes, financial aid, and other trivialities that degrade, and effeminate an Art as liberal and noble as Painting; nor should a time be predetermined that they study Geometry, or Perspective to overcome difficulties in drawing, for this itself will necessarily demand them in time of those who discover an aptitude, and talent, and the more advanced in it, the more easily they attain knowledge in the other Arts, as seen from the examples of those who have risen highest in this aspect, who I do not cite since they are so well known. I will give a proof to demonstrate with facts, that there are no rules in Painting, and that the oppression, or servile obligation of making all study or follow the same path, is a great impediment for the Young who profess this very difficult art, that approaches the Divine more than any other, since it makes known all that God has created; he who has most closely approached will be able to give few rules concerning the profound operations of the understanding that are needed for it, nor explain why he has been happier perhaps with a work where less care has been taken, than with one of greater finish; What a profound and impenetrable arcanum is encompassed in the imitation of divine nature, without which there is nothing good, not only in Painting (that has no other task than its exact imitation) but in the other sciences.
Annibale Carracci, revived Painting that since the time of Raphael had fallen into decline, with the liberality of his genius, he gave birth to more disciples, and better than as many practitioners as there has been, leaving each to proceed following the inclination of his spirit, without determining for any to follow his style, or method, putting only those corrections intended to attain the imitation of the truth, and thus is seen the different styles, of Guido, Guercino, Andrea, Sacchi, Lanfranco, Albano, etc.
I cannot omit another clearer proof. Of the Painters known to us of greatest ability, and who have taken the greatest pains to teach the method of their tired styles (according to what they have told us). How many students have resulted? Where is the progress? the rules? the method? From what they have written, has any more been attained than to arouse the interest of those that are not, nor cannot be Artists, with the object of more greatly enhancing their own [that is, the Artist’s] works, and giving them broad authority to decide even in the presence of those versed in this very sacred Science that demands so much study (even of those who were born for it) to understand and discern what is best.
It is impossible to express the pain that it causes me to see the flow of the perhaps licentious, or eloquent pen (that so attracts the uninitiated) and fall into the weakness of not knowing in depth the material of which he writes; What a scandal to hear nature deprecated in comparison to Greek statues by one who knows neither the one, nor the other, without acknowledging that the smallest part of Nature confounds and amazes those who know most! What statue, or cast of it might there be, that is not copied from Divine Nature? As excellent as the artist may be who copied it, can he not but proclaim that placed at its side, one is the work of God, and the other of our miserable hands? He who wishes to distance himself, to correct it [nature] without seeking the best of it, can he help but fall into a reprehensible [and] monotonous manner, of paintings, of plaster models, as has happened to all who have done this exactly? It seems that I stray from my original subject, but there is nothing more necessary, if there were to be a remedy for the actual decadence of the Arts but to know that they must not be dragged down by the power or knowledge of other sciences, but rather be governed by their own merit, as has always been the case when talents have flourished: then the despotic enthusiasts cease, and prudent lovers are born, who appreciate, venerate and encourage those who excel, providing them with work that can further advance their talent, helping them with greater force to produce all that their inclination promises: this is the true protection of the Arts, and it has always been shown that the works have made the men great. In conclusion, sir, I do not see any other means of advancing the Arts, nor do I believe there is one, than to reward and protect he who excels in them; to hold in esteem the true Artist, to allow free reign to the genius of students who wish to learn them, without oppression, nor imposition of methods that twist the inclination they show to this or that style, of Painting.
I have given my opinion in response to Your Excellency’s charge, but if my hand doesn’t govern the pen as I might wish, to explain that which I understand, I hope that your Excellency will excuse it, for my entire life has been spent in attaining the fruit of that of which I am now speaking.
MADRID 14 OCTOBER 1792.
___________________________________
RASF, Archive, legajo 18-1/1. This address was first published with a German translation by Jutta Held, “Goya’s Akademiekritik,” Münchner Jahrbuch der Bildenden Kunst 17 (1966): 214–24. Enriqueta Harris offered the first English translation in Goya (London: Phaidon, 1969), 28–29. In my transcription, original orthography and diacritical marks have been retained. I have attempted also to approximate Goya’s original style by maintaining his [lack of] punctuation. The addition of such punctuation as the comma between “Andrea” and “Saqui” at the end of the second paragraph is probably the work of a professional scribe.
Appendix 1: Goya’s Address to the Royal Academy of San Fernando Regarding the Method of Teaching the Visual Arts
Next chapter