Francisco de Goya cast a cold eye on the cruelty and corruption of his fellow man, be he king or inquisitor, aristocrat or judge. One of Spain’s three greatest painters (with Velazquez and Picasso), Goya was also a master printmaker and social satirist; the “Caprichos,” a series of 80 aquatints from 1799, is his best-known graphic work. An inventory of human grotesqueries and suffering in 18th-century Spain, the prints are part black humor (caprichos means “caprices” in Spanish), part nightmare, and part proto-photojournalism. The scene in Nohubo Remedio (There Was No Remedy) was likely a familiar sight to Goya—a woman, a prostitute or heretic, marched through the streets to her public execution, wearing a conical hat of shame and a wooden collar so she may not hide her face. While the artist shows little compassion for the accused, he saves his harshest commentary for her guards, who take a malignant pleasure in their authority, and the mob, which has become a pack of howling beasts.
Selections from the “Caprichos” are part of an exhibition of European works on paper ranging from Rembrandt to Cezanne at the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, New York, through September 16. (518) 792-1761; www.hydecollection.org.