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The Politics of the Grotesque: Goya's 'Caprichos' and French Literature and Graphic Art in the Nineteenth Century (c.1799-1868).



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This PhD dissertation studies the influence of Goya’s prints in nineteenth-century France, focusing on Los Caprichos (1799). It first examines the spread of Goya’s work in the French market, which became the main receptor of the Spanish artist. The discovery of Goya in France goes in parallel with the general trend towards Spanish culture, peaking in the 1830s and again in the 1860s, highlighting the creation of Louis-Philippe’s Galerie espagnole (1838-1848). This diffusion, which occurred mainly through his prints and drawings, was encouraged by some key artists and collectors. At this respect, this thesis reveals the fundamental role of Valentín Carderera circulating Goya’s graphic work in the French artistic circle. His unpublished correspondence shows his dealing activity with a network of major French figures including Prosper Mérimée, Gustave Brunet, Baron Taylor and Viollet-le-Duc.

The impact of Goya on French art and literature is channelled in two broad categories: aesthetics and politics. In France, Goya is interpreted almost exclusively as the author of the Caprichos and is hence assumed through the aesthetics of the Romantisme noir, the taste for the grotesque and the literary vision of Spain. Many copies are produced after the Caprichos as illustrations or for personal study, and the generation of Théophile Gautier and Charles Baudelaire understood Goya as the last representative of the old Spanish School. On the other hand, Goya's influence on social and political criticism is analysed through satirical prints in La Caricature and Le Charivari, among others by Daumier and Grandville. In these works, Goya is interpreted as a caricaturist, embodying the politically engaged artist who targets the Ancien-Régime authority of the aristocracy, the clergy and the royalty. At this respect, Goya seems to share with the Romantics their defence of progress and rejection of obsolete institutions. This includes the fight against censorship and the advocacy for artistic freedom. This dissertation ends with a study of Eugène Delacroix as the richest example of Goya’s impact on nineteenth-century French art, containing a catalogue that gathers more than thirty copies after the Caprichos.





Massing, Jean Michel


Goya, Caprichos, 19th-Century French Art, Caricature, Satirical Print, Delacroix, Daumier, Grandville, Censorship, Prints and Drawings, Art Collecting, Social Criticism, Political Criticism, Los Caprichos, Spanish Art, Etching


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Magdalene College, Cambridge (Full Leslie Wilson Research Studentship). Travel grants: Trevor Brown Bursary (Cambridge Society of Paris), Jack Vettriano (Magdalene College), Kettle's Yard and Department of History of Art.