Goya’s Prison: The Year of Despair
Goya’s Prison: The Year of Despair

Goya’s Prison: The Year of Despair

23 March – 23 June 2019

The Bowes Museum is giving visitors the chance to see an in depth exhibition focussing on a small but career defining painting created during a turning point in the life of the Spanish painter Goya before a group of the Museum’s key Spanish paintings go on loan to The Meadows Museum in Dallas in September.


Late in 1792 Goya became severely ill and even though he eventually recovered he was left profoundly deaf for the rest of his life.  During a period of recuperation he produced a set of small cabinet paintings on tin plate that were to define the rest of his career.


The Bowes Museum’s Director, Adrian Jenkins, has curated this show which looks specifically at the Museum’s The Interior of a Prison. It is one of these pivotal pieces and explores the story behind the picture created during this monumental moment in Goya’s life.


The work is one which highlights a turning point in the artist’s career.  In 1792 Goya was fed up with his routine of painting cartoons for the Royal Tapestry Factory, which were only seen by the Royal family and not the wider public.


His destiny was decided by fate, when a debilitating illness struck. Sick with terrible noises in his head, severe dizziness, loss of balance and failing eyesight his symptoms remained unidentified although syphilis and meningitis were among the most popular theories.


Now it’s thought that some of the symptoms Goya experienced could have been tinnitus and the Museum has teamed up with the British Tinnitus Association as part of the exhibition.


As such, there will be an area within the exhibition featuring information and an audio visual display about the condition.


Sufferers often hear many different sounds in their ears or head, which range from hissing, buzzing, ringing and even segments of music, which are not from an external source.


Adrian Jenkins, the Museum’s Director, said: “While his illness and subsequent deafness left Goya isolated in an alien world unable to communicate, his works flourished and he went on to create a body of work that represents one of the defining testimonies of humanity in all its complexities.  In his despair and his shift away from the huge official tapestry commissions to smaller and more intimate works he found the freedom of artistic expression that was to define his reputation.”


Goya’s Prison: The Year of Despair will study The Interior of a Prison in detail, with reference to other pictures in the cabinet series.  The display, which will run from 23 March until 23 June, will also include works by Poussin, Tiepolo and Piranesi.


The Bowes Museum is open daily from 10am.  A full programme of events and exhibitions is available by calling 01833 690606 or by viewing the website at www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk


The Bowes Museum is looking forward to welcoming you on the 17 May

Staff have been busy behind the Museum’s closed doors getting everything ready to welcome visitors back safely.

Café Bowes has undergone a refurbishment and has a new menu waiting to be sampled, the Museum has been deep cleaned, new signage is in place reminding you to adhere to social distancing, hand sanitisation stations have been refilled, the shop has been restocked and staff are being trained ready to greet you back in a safe and timely manner.

North Country Quilts: In Celebration of New Acquisitions is now hanging in the main exhibition gallery ready to wow visitors through to January 2022 and, due to social distancing measures, entry to the display will be by a separate timed exhibition entrance ticket that needs to be booked, at no extra cost, before visiting. Song has also been reinstated in the Music Room so people can enjoy the sound of the instruments. A varied programme of activity is being planned throughout May and June which we hope you will participate in.

Entry to the Museum will be by timed slots and tickets will have to be pre-booked online here or by calling 01833 690606. The Museum will be open from 10.00 to 5.00 daily. Masks will need to be worn throughout the Museum, shop and café, except when eating or where exemptions apply.

We look forward to welcoming you back soon!