The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts

Goya’s Mastery in Prints: Los Caprichos

Francisco José de Goya (1746-1828), El sueño de la razon produce monstruos  (The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters), 1799

February 14, 2008 – June 8, 2008

The University of Arizona Museum of Art presents Goya’s Mastery in Prints, a celebration of the graphic techniques and visionary achievements of Spanish master Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828). These exhibitions present in succession the artist’s four most significant print suites — in first-edition imprints — on loan from the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

This extraordinary cycle of exhibitions concludes with Los Caprichos (The Caprices), the artist’s most influential undertaking in printmaking — 80 aquatint etchings that satirize human folly and critique elements of 18th-century Spanish society. Goya worked on the etchings from 1797-1798 and published them in 1799, at the age of 53.

The term “capricho” translates as whim, fantasy, or invention, and in calling the series “caprices,” he signaled that his intention was not simply to create images for pictorial pleasure, but to craft wildly inventive scenes in order to make statements (sometimes comedic, sometimes grim) with potent moral force about societal ills.

The prints in Los Caprichos exhibit the influence of Enlightenment ideals on Goya — in particular, the notion that reason should govern human thought, social behavior, and political affairs. Individual scenes in the series comment on a range of subjects, including the dangers of ignorance, the irrationality of superstitions, and the frivolity of courtship customs. They criticize various professions and institutions (including the state, the church, and the aristocracy) and denounce certain injustices and abuses of power.

Los Caprichos established Goya as the most important printmaker in the Western tradition since Rembrandt. Although a commercial failure during the artist’s lifetime, the suite’s combination of social satire, political critique, inventive imagery, and innovative graphic techniques have had enormous influence on subsequent generations of artists.


Download the gallery guide for this exhibition.

(Adobe Acrobat file, may take a moment to download)

See the related exhibition, Correspondence: In Relation to Goya for Maria Brito: Las Goyescas and Enrique Chagoya: The Return to Goya’s Caprichos.

Visit our subsequent Goya exhibitions:

Goya’s Mastery in Prints: La Tauromaquia

Goya’s Mastery in Prints: Los Disparates

Goya’s Mastery in Prints: Los Desastres de la Guerra