Martin Museum jumps into bullfighting ring with Goya exhibit

Martin Museum hosts a talk over the Goya exhibit on Feb. 23. Olivia Havre | Photographer

By Tyler White | Reporter

On Tuesday, Mike Schuetz, collection manager for the Martin Museum of Art presented a lecture on the collection “In the Ring: Goya’s La Tauromaquia.” This collection of works by Francisco Goya is one of the current exhibitions on display at the museum and is part of the permanent collections.

Goya’s “La Tauromaquia” is a historical narrative collection that discusses the development of bullfighting from its early days of hunting, its transformation into sport and finally to the spectacles of famous matadors. The 33-print collection, along with an additional seven plates of previously unpublished prints, showcases a multitude of techniques that gave Goya’s pieces a unique style.

Elisa Crowder, education coordinator at the Martin Museum of Art, said Goya used a technique called aquatint, which gives an effect similar to watercolor. This method of etching and using an acid-resistant chemical was combined with other techniques, like copper plate etching, to give a unique feel to the pieces.

“Goya would utilize other techniques within printmaking that had not been utilized,” Crowder said. “Typically an artist would simply do dry point, sketching directly into copper, or they would use a burin and make their engraving, and Goya made marks within some of his plates where he didn’t just do the etching. He would use these other tools to really make things stand out.”

Beyond the technique and style of this collection, the importance of Goya’s pieces lies in the narrative style within the art. “La Tauromaquia” is more than a collection of etched copper prints. It is a historical story of bullfighting.

Schuetz said bullfighting became synonymous with the strength of the Spanish people. In the post-Peninsular War era, it became a sign of tradition as bullfighting rose to the popularity of being a sport and a spectacle. Therefore, it was something that Goya felt important to narrate artistically.

“To me, Goya’s ‘La Tauromaquia’ is a series of mediation and a response to changes in historical political and social issues, while also referring to tradition,” Schuetz said.

Schuetz said he brainstormed ways to make the exhibition display the story of the tauromaquia. The ring format of the exhibition area symbolizes the ring of the bullfighting arena. He also said the dim lighting gives a light and personal feeling to the collection by slowly building an atmosphere through subtle elements.

Crowder said that Schuetz had set the exhibition up in a way that allowed the story to shine through the pieces. With its organization, the plates tell the story of the development of bullfighting, from its origin to its legacy.

“The 33 prints tell a historical viewpoint of tauromaquia, how it started as hunting and moved from hunting to being something that the Moors turned into a sport,” Crowder said. “Then the wealthy people, the nobility, took it over. Then finally, we get into seeing how the common man took it over, and we get introduced to some of the most famous matadors of the day.”

Schuetz said he wanted to share this experience of viewing the pieces in a personal way as a collections manager.

“I wanted an improved visitor experience through the act of slow and careful looking and introspectively to see the prints from the unique viewpoint of a collections manager who, when designing and fabricating materials for a show, is always seeking out innovative ways to expand the language and methods of museum exhibitions,” Schuetz said.

Allison Chew, director at the Martin Museum of Art, said this exhibition is an opportunity to really view the collection as a historical narrative. She said this approach is more accessible for those who come into the museum, because it lends us a linear understanding of the story contained within the pieces.

“The narrative is a very accessible way to communicate themes and ideas with these works of art,” Chew said. “You know, sometimes you get into a more thematic approach and so it’s more abstract, so it’s just different. So, and this being a full series, really lends itself to that narrative. You get to visually see the narrative and read it as well.”