Who was the best Horror filmmaker of the 1700’s? Francisco de Goya, that’s who.
When I was in college, years ago, my major study was screenwriting, but my minor was in art history. At the time I tossed around the idea of being a fine artist like my older brother, one of my idols. I’ve blogged about my brother Charlie before. He was the oldest of our 6 siblings and I was the youngest and we had a whopping 16 year difference in age, so as you can imagine, he was my hero.
When I was 5 years old, he went to art school and he’d bring these massive tomes home just filled with classical art. To get me to read them, he’d leave them on the coffee table and “forbid” me to read them because they were full of naked ladies.
For years I thought I was geting away with something, lookng at all those naked ladies, as portrayed by everyone from Rubens and Michaelangelo to Picasso and Warhol. Little did I know, Charlie was planting the seeds of art in my mind. Because after the thrill of the nudity, I became fascinated with beauty in general. Use of light, composition, subject matter and meaning all became ingrained in my very DNA. I didn’t know wy the paintings pleased me so much, but they did.
Sadly my ability as a fine artist was nil, but photography, storytelling, and eventually, film making became my true love anyway. But I never ever ever lost my love of fine art, especially painting. I have many favorites, Van Gogh, Bosch, Lichtenstein... and my tastes range from pop to dark terror, but my favorite is very likely a guy named Francisco de Goya. If youve heard of him, and you’ve seen my films, you may see why I like him so much, but if you haven’t, I highly suggest you google him now and partake in some of the most amazingly dark, lurid, grotesque paintings ever created.
Born in 1746 and living into his 80’s Goya had the weird distinction of being one of the last Old Masters and one of the first New Modernists. What I especially like about his art is that he had these two sides to himself. He was a portrait artist by trade - painting kings and lords and ladies to pay the rent, but on the side, almost secretly, he painted some of the most dark, nightmarish visions of human nature. Clearly he had some issues, but don’t we all? Only, he was brave enough to dig into his darkest personal places and pull some of the most amazing pieces of art imaginable.
As much as I love horror films and the catharsis that it brings, I often think of the people who were like you and me, but who lived out their lives before the advent of motion pictures, TV and the internet... Where did they go to get their macabre? Literature and art, witchcraft, dark theater...
I think Goya was one of us, and I can only imagine what he would have created had he lived in a time when he could have been handed a film camera...
Note that Goya’s most famous painting - “Saturn devouring his Sons” which we all have come to know as a picture of a deranged naked man eating the limp bloody body of a child is not how he originally painted it... Originally, Goya had painted Saturn to have a massive erection as he stood eating the body. The penis has long since been painted out by “decent” and “moral” censors for our own good. Thank God for them...
The art community is at odds about why Goya painted the murderous old man with an erection. Some believe it was because he wanted Saturn to symbolize both life giving and taking in the same work. Others hold that Saturn was deriving unhealthy pleasure from his canabalistic crime. What do you think?
My opinion - “Whatever horrifies you more.”
If you want to see more Goya, check out http://www.franciscodegoya.net. If modern horror films have been lletting you down, don’t forget the masters... they were darker than we think...
Gaudium per atrox.