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Goya and the Bullfight


December 18, 2010 - April 17, 2011

Bullfight in a Divided Ring, from the series The Bulls of Bordeaux, 1825, Lithograph, Mrs. Kingsmill Marrs Collection, 1926.681

From the onset of the nineteenth century until his death in 1828, Francisco Goya presented the subject of bullfighting in both paintings and prints. The Worcester Art Museum is fortunate to have complete sets of his two major print series on bullfighting, The Tauromaquia, which loosely documents the history of Spanish bullfighting, and his lithographic masterpiece, The Bulls of Bordeaux.

The bullfight serves as a controversial symbol of Spanish national identity. Likewise, this exhibition showcases Goya's complicated, sometimes ambivalent relationship to the sport. At times presented as a noble and heroic display of humanity's ability to conquer a primal, fierce enemy, Goya's Tauromaquia uses bullfighting as the cultural connection unifying Spain's turbulent Iberian, Muslim, and Christian past. However, The Bulls of Bordeaux, presents a darker side of bullfighting in which the spectators and toreadors are unruly and at times dishonorable towards the captive bull. In both cases, Goya's innovative technical and compositional skill is unmistakable.

Select Images from the Exhibition