Francisco de Goya


Goya paired this sheet depicting a solitary woman with one depicting a worker with his hands raised in anger and desperation. A melancholic tone is struck: some are resigned to fate, some rail against it. With an awareness of the larger forces at play in life, the artist showed empathy for the downtrodden, although the caption may have a sardonic edge. While Goya’s figures often appear deftly drawn by quick strokes of the brush, sheets such as this one— with its visible correction to the woman’s profile— indicate the great care he took with these drawings.

Francisco de Goya
Spanish; 1746–1828
Leave It All to Providence, from the Black Border Album, 1816–20
Black ink and gray wash


At the age of 48 and deafened by a serious illness, Goya began to produce hundreds of drawings, executed in series and often accompanied by a caption. He organized these drawings thematically into albums. In the Thaw Collection and on view nearby are works from Goya's early Madrid Album, and the provocative Witches and Old Women Album.

This sheet is from the Black Border Album, containing drawings executed by Goya when he was in his seventies. The drawings are characterized by their bold execution, minimal background, and a thick border in black ink.

This sheet has the immediacy of a candid snapshot. Simple flicks of his brush reveal telling details of body language and expression that are acutely observed. Here, a solitary woman in a barren landscape gathers her cloak around her, arms concealed beneath it, close to the body in a protective, introspective position.

Her face is angled down, her brow shadowed by fabric, her mouth opened not in speech but naturally in thought. She's unaware of us or her surroundings. Notice the few strokes made with the tip of the brush dipped in varying strengths of ink wash that define her nose and open mouth.

That Goya could convincingly depict the thought process, the struggle to accept circumstances, relinquish control, and have faith in providence, in the form of a single figure on a virtually spare page, reveals his genius.