Author: Luis Martín-Estudillo
Extent: 288 pp
Publication: February 2023
Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press
Spanish artist Francisco Goya (1746–1828) was fascinated by reading, and Goya’s attention to the act and consequences of literacy – apparent in some of his most ambitious, groundbreaking creations – is related to the reading revolution in which he participated. It was an unprecedented growth both in the number of readers and in the quantity and diversity of texts available, accompanied by a profound shift in the way they were consumed and, for the artist, represented.
Goya and the Mystery of Reading studies the way Goya’s work heralds the emergence of a new kind of viewer, one who he assumes can and does read, and whose comportment as a skilled interpreter of signs alters the sense of his art, multiplying its potential for meaning. While the reading revolution resulted from and contributed to the momentous social transformations of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Goya and the Mystery of Reading explains how this transition can be tracked in the work of Goya, an artist who aimed not to copy the world around him, but to read it.
Living in an era in which readership and the diversity of texts flourished, Goya not only read, but explored in paintings, prints, and drawings the shifting connotations of reading: as intellectual or spiritual inspiration, as fashion ornament, or as path to self-discovery, saintliness, perversion, or madness. In this engrossing study of readers in Goya’s art, Martín-Estudillo focuses on a theme too long overlooked, and he masterfully unveils the richness and nuanced implications of Goya’s imagery. Janis A. Tomlinson, author of Goya: A Portrait of the Artist