Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album Archive

From Goya to Gliding – 6 months in the Marketing team

I’ve been the Gallery marketing and communications intern for the past 6 months, and what a six months it’s been!

With a background in History of Art, The Courtauld was the dream location to delve into the world of arts marketing and comms.

Walking through the Gallery before opening (having restocked the all-important leaflet holder) and enjoying a room full of Cézanne’s on the way to the office never gets old. The Courtauld really does have a stunning collection of paintings on the walls, and a great selection of rotating displays in the new Drawings Gallery. There is always something new to discover and I still haven’t settled on a favourite work!

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The location isn’t bad either. Situated in the North Block of Somerset House the Gallery finds itself surrounded by a thriving community of arts and cultural organisations as well as bars, brasseries and coffee shops. And fountains! I have loved sitting outside over lunch watching people race each other through the jets or pose in front of them for instagram-worthy shots and then get unintentionally soaked.

Back to the job – The role allows, and encourages, you to get involved in all aspects of marketing and communications within The Courtauld. From social media promotions, monthly e-newsletters and visitor research to feeding-back on poster designs, collating press packs and press coverage the department is a lively one with lots to get excited about.

Highlights for me include:

Assisting at the press call when the plaster cupid, brought from Cézanne’s studio in the south of France, was re-united with its ‘portrait’.

Photographing and working on the Illuminating Objects series – seeing Elly’s aventurine bowl project through from inception to display. Trips to the stores and conservation studios are always fascinating and remind you that there is always more to learn about the collection.

The Gallery team.  There are lots of friendly faces in the building which forms a great collaborative atmosphere. Everyone has been hugely welcoming and supportive and I’m very grateful for all that I’ve learnt.

In the last 6 months I have seen the extraordinary exhibition Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album open to excellent reviews and the Goya Late events attract record numbers. Unfinished…Works from The Courtauld Gallery seemed a long way off in February but time sped along and now it’s only next month that the Bridget Riley: Learning from Seurat display is installed, followed by Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings!

I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction into the world of arts marketing and communications. I’ve learnt so much from the whole team, and in particular from Emily Butcher my manager – thank you. I have been lucky enough to secure a full-time job within marketing and communications, no doubt in part due to my time at The Courtauld.

I look forward to returning to the Gallery to see the displays and projects that I have been working on come to fruition. Until then, nothing beats seeing reviews of the shows you’ve been involved with or your leaflets or posters out on display!

 

Goya under the microscope

Kate Edmondson, The Courtauld Gallery’s paper conservator, talks us through her fascinating discoveries whilst examining the works which form our current exhibition, Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album.

Kate, what techniques did you use to study Goya’s drawings?

To forensically study the works I focused on using a high magnification. This was essential in revealing Goya’s drawing technique, and the way he layered the black ink in different concentrations skilfully with a brush.

Goya under the microscope
Also by use of transmitted light through the paper, and raking light across the surface of the paper, I could see clearly how Goya had scraped the surface, a technique which was key to his practice, to either make alterations or to create highlights to his drawings.

Kate

Transmitted and raking light

Transmitted light and raking light

What did you discover?

Close examination of the paper furnish, colour, plus measuring the distance of the vertical chain lines in the paper, confirmed that the same paper had been used for all 22 drawings. Identifying the watermark and countermark from the fragments of watermarks which were consistently positioned in the lower left corner of most of the drawings, revealed the paper manufacturer  Blauw & Briel Company at De Herder  (The Shepherd) mill at Zaandijk, Holland. Now knowing the approximate original sheet size, Dutch Royal, helped us calculate the untrimmed size of Goya’s paper for the drawings, as 1/8th of a full sheet.

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Paper size

It’s possible that Goya could have worked on single sheets, but we wanted to investigate into the theory that he worked in a sketchbook. The full sheets of paper could in fact have been cut and folded into folios or sections and sewn together to form a simple binding. We found no evidence of sewing holes but did discover some slightly rounded and worn right corners, often a result of handling book pages, which strongly suggests that the drawings could have been part of a book.

Rounded corner

After discovering that you were most likely looking at a sketchbook of Goya’s, how did you work out the original sequence of the drawings?

A really exciting discovery was ink off-set marks on the verso of some of the sheets.

Not only did this strengthen the argument for Goya working in a book, where transfer of media from one page to another is common, but by tracing the marks we could marry up the pages.

Using this techinque and by cross referencing the works that had page numbers we were able to plot the possible order of drawings in Goya’s album, which can be seen in the Gallery today.

Ink off sets

Left: Verso of unnumbered Visiones with brown ink off-set marks at top
Right: Recto of Locura, with Goya’s number 11 which matches the ink marks on verso of Visiones

 

This was a ground-breaking study into the works and practice of Francisco Goya. We hope we have revealed a deeper understanding of the works and the artist himself.

Further information about reconstructing Goya’s album can be found in the exhibition catalogue, available in the Gallery shop.

 

It’s Almost Time! Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album

 

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After a busy week of installation, our major exhibition Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album is almost ready to open.

 

Our exhibition space has been transformed, offering visitors a glimpse into the private world of Goya’s boundless imagination, expressed through visions and nightmares superstitions and problems of old age.

 

Our conservation and curatorial teams have been working with museums and galleries across the globe and as a result we have reunited the wildly scattered pages of Goya’s Witches and Old Women Album. This is the first time this album has been reconstructed in its original sequence and we can’t wait to show you the results.

Find out more about the exhibition here  and avoid the queues by booking your ticket online

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The exhibition coming together

 

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Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album opens 25 March 2015

The Courtauld Gallery , Somerset House