Third of May

Third of MayIt may have been because my daughter had just posted on Facebook about her trip to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. It could have been because I have been toying with the idea of buying a painting from a Newfoundland artist that I recently discovered. Or, in the words of Scrooge, it could have been a bit of undigested beef, although it was chicken wings and not beef on the dinner menu yesterday.

Whatever the reason, last night was the first time I can ever remember dreaming about a painting…namely, Goya’s Third of May, 1808.

The details of the dream are lost to me now. The only thing I remember is staring at that painting in amazement, much the same way I did several years ago when I saw it in Madrid; it was mesmerizing on both occasions.

It depicts such a horrible scene (that of Napoleon’s army shooting some Spanish civilians at point blank range) but in spite of that, there is such beauty. How can you not be drawn to that Christ-like figure in the center of the frame? And his use of colour and light…wow!

The tragedy is that the subject matter of this painting is just as fresh today as it was 200 years ago. In fact, other artists have since used it in their own work to depict violence at other periods in time…Picasso, for instance, in his “Massacre in Korea 1951”, and an Irish painter by the name of Robert Gallagh created his version during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He called it “The Third of May, 1970”.

300px-Picasso_Massacre_in_Korea

ballagh third of may 1970

I did not mean to turn my dream recounting into an art lecture. But that image has stayed with me all morning, and – it seems – subliminally, for many years. What about you? Is there something you have seen – art or not – that just won’t leave you?

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