In an exhibition appropriately titled “Fear and Folly: The Visionary Prints of Francisco Goya and Federico Castellon,” the art gallery at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) features prints by two artists who have much in common even though they are separated by about a century and a half.
Both Francisco Goya (1746–1828) and Federico Castellon (1914–1971) were born in Spain. Their work on display here focuses on the human condition and at times gives the impression that the two were contemporaries.
Famed as a romantic painter and printmaker, Goya is regarded as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns whose work influenced the likes of Picasso and Francis Bacon. He was a court painter famed for flattering portraits, but his work took a darker turn later in life after a serious illness left him deaf. A bleak outlook and fear of insanity can be seen in such works as the nightmarish Saturn Devouring His Son, which Goya painted directly onto the wall of his home.
Castellon is a mid-twentieth century Surrealist who moved with his family from Spain to Brooklyn, New York, when he was just seven years old. Largely self-taught, he became a friend of the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera when his mother took him to a lecture given by Rivera during his installation of the murals at Rockefeller Center. Rivera helped Castellon achieve his first solo exhibition when he was just 19 years old. Castellon went on to win several prestigious awards, including two Guggenheim fellowships, and to a career in teaching at Columbia University and elsewhere. He also created illustrations for Life magazine and for numerous books.
The TCNJ exhibition, which opens on Wednesday, January 23, and continues through March 7, was organized by the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan. It’s an exhibition in which artistry and literature collide.
Each artist is represented by a series of prints: Goya’s etchings from Los Disparates (The Proverbs) and Castellon’s lithographs for Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death. “Many artists have been drawn to things dark and fantastic, but few have probed the human condition with the insight and truthfulness found in these images,” comments exhibition curator, Greg Waskowsky of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Los Disparates was the last of Goya’s major series of etchings, and it was unfinished at the time of his death.
The prints in the Los Disparates series contain some of the most horrifying, fantastic, and enigmatic creations of his imagination: strange bird-men soaring through dense darkness, a wild horse abducting a woman, and hosts of witches and grotesque imaginings in dark shadows.
The images that Castellon created for The Masque of the Red Death are considered among his most remarkable accomplishments, technically and artistically. His work on Poe’s classic horror tale was a commission from Aquarius Press of Baltimore in 1969. His imagery maintains the spirit of Poe’s story.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Professor Amze Emmons will discuss the history of prints as a means of communication, as well as contemporary print making practices in a special lecture titled “Print Culture, Past and Present,” on Friday, February 15, at 11:30 a.m. in Mayo Concert Hall in the Music Building. A relative newcomer to TCNJ, having been appointed just last year in the department of art and art history, Mr. Emmons is an artist, illustrator, and curator. He has an MA and MFA from the University of Iowa where he focused on printmaking, digital media, and photography.
The art gallery at TCNJ Art Gallery is located in the Arts and Interactive Multimedia Building (AIMM) on the campus at 2000 Pennington Road in Ewing. It is open to the public free of charge on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from noon to 7 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit tcnj.edu/artgallery or call (609) 771 2633.