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This is how useful men usually end up
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
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Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de

Fuendetodos, Zaragoza (Spain), 1746 - Bordeaux (France), 1828

Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de See author's file

This is how useful men usually end up

1814 - 1823. Wash, Brush, Bistre on laid paper.
Not on display

Many of the drawings from Album C depict people suffering the consequences of poverty. Beggars, the handicapped, alcoholics, the mentally ill and invalids appear throughout the first half of that album, offering a panorama of daily life among Spanish society’s least privileged classes during the Revolutionary War. As is customary in Goya’s graphic works, the commentaries that serve as titles to these drawings add a critical touch that surpasses the mere representation of something he may have seen. Poverty and begging were problems that concerned members of the Enlightenment, whose awareness of their seriousness led them to promote economic and social reforms. While this poverty was often the result of social injustice, it was sometimes due to a lifestyle that involved avoiding work in favor of begging or living by one’s wits, which seemed like an easier way of obtaining the same economic support without having to work for it. It was thus a form of moral degradation, and was harshly criticized as such during that period. Goya was not immune to such concerns and the drawing with which he begins this album shows a man begging piteously on the street. Its title, Because He is Not Working, explains the reasons for his condition. In the case of the aged, however, the descriptions were more nuanced. In Goya’s Spain, their vulnerability after leaving the workforce was frequently addressed in literature, and thus, rather than offering a critical view of the life that had led them into poverty, their image was associated with a more supportive view that expressed the causes of their situation. The war, which Goya criticized throughout his life, was one of the immediate causes of the poverty that beset many of the men shown in some of his drawings. War Work is the title he gave to a drawing in which an invalid with an injured leg and crutches begs piteously on the street. The term that titles that drawing had been used since the 16th century to refer to military service and in Goya’s time, such war work was always associated with the bitterest aspects of that service. In his Cartas críticas del Filósofo Rancio (Critical Letters by an Outdated Philosopher, Vol. II, Madrid, E. Aguado, 1824), Friar Francisco Alvarado took a very conservative approach to his defense, around 1811, of the need for men to sacrifice themselves: “Moreover, I want the troops to know what I think about them [...] as in my opinion, there is no merit nor any prize on this Earth that equals the important service of citizens who face the dangers of bayonets and bullets for their Religion and their country, suffering the horrors of war work: and with an eye to our beliefs in the Hereafter, the public has long known that in this resolution they are participating in that charity that Christ holds above all others, when a man risks his life for his brothers, which is that strength to which Saint Thomas (not the one of angelical sources) attributes all the merits of martyrdom.” At the opposite end of the spectrum, in his Teatro crítico universal, o discursos varios en todo género de materias, para desengaño de errors communes (Universal Critical Theater, or various discourses about all sorts of subjects to dispel common errors, Volume VII, Madrid, herederos de Francisco del Hierro, 1739, pp. 392-393)Benito Jerónimo Feijoo had expressed an opinion much closer to Goya’s: “it cannot be denied that in these centuries, war has become much more humane, losing much of the fierceness employed in earlier times. And who would prohibit the contribution of this most important mitigation of its rage to the equanimity with which war is now fought? [...] Let us focus on seeing whether we can obtain a more limited relief from the war work that our Spanish laborers bear, that is, an exemption from military service. For it is certain that if the number of troops needed to sustain and defend this kingdom could be attained with persons who serve no other purpose in the republic -without drawing on the laborers, whose work is essential- than that should be done. And does Spain contain enough useless people to complete the rank and file? Indeed, there would still be plenty left over. I use the term, useless people, to refer, first, to loafers. Useless? I might better call them pernicious. Whosoever rids us of layabouts does a great service to the Earth, and even more so, to Heaven. No class of man is more ridden with vice than that, as loafing is the school and teacher of mischief.” The present drawing’s image conveys a sense of poverty but does not reveal its origin. The title, however, is quite significant, as its mention of useful men alludes to those who, as Feijoo indicated in the previously quoted text, were equally so for productive society and military service. The final years for old men like the one shown here, handicapped and condemned to a life of poverty, calls for compassion while actively criticizing the system that is responsible for their situation. Other drawings by Goya also present aged beggars, especially two consecutive ones in Album F (69 and 70, New York, Metropolitan Museum), each with a cane and hat. The solitude of the figure shown here is accentuated by the elimination of spatial references, with the exception of his own shadow and a subtle horizon line, and it emphasizes his sense of abandonment in old age.

This drawing’s composition, with a figure isolated in the foreground and a setting defined only by the shadow he projects on the ground in a plane that parallels his head, brings out his sense of loneliness and instability. Only the strength of his arms and his perseverance allow him to keep his balance. His broken posture, with immobilized legs, is emphasized by his long hair, which hangs down into his beard. The concentration he needs in order to walk is clear in his gaze, which focuses on the ground before him. His permanent concern with not falling keeps him from looking forward. Far from a personal projection by the artist, this drawing is an efficient example of Goya’s critical spirit and of his compassion for those who could somehow identify with his thinking, his condition and his suffering (Text drawn from Matilla, J. M., "Asi suelen acabar los hombres utiles", in Matilla, J. M., Mena Marqués, M. B. (dir.), Goya: Luces y Sombras, Barcelona: Fundación "la Caixa", Barcelona: Obra Social "la Caixa"-Madrid: Museo Nacional del Prado, 2012, p. 301-302, no. 89).


Technical data

Inventory number
Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de
This is how useful men usually end up
1814 - 1823
Wash; Brush; Bistre
Laid paper
Height: 206 mm; Width: 142 mm
Cuaderno C, 17
Javier Goya, Madrid, 1828; Mariano Goya, Madrid, 1854; Federico de Madrazo y/o Román Garreta, Madrid, c. 1855-1860; Museo de la Trinidad, Madrid, 5-4-1866; Museo del Prado, 1872.

Bibliography +

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier, Sala de los dibujos de Goya, II, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1928, pp. 14, n.46.

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier, Los dibujos de Goya reproducidos a su tamaño y en su color, II, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1954, pp. n. 238.

Gassier, Pierre y Wilson-Bareau, Juliet, Vie et oeuvre de Francisco de Goya: l' oeuvre complet illustré: peintures, dessins, gravures, Office du Livre, Fribourg, 1970, pp. 282, n. 1256.

Salas, Xavier de, El Arte de Goya, Ministerio de Auntos Exteriores, Tokio, 1971.

Gassier, Pierre, Dibujos de Goya. Los álbumes, I, Noguer, Barcelona, 1973, pp. 358, n. 165, il. p. 243.

Salas, Xavier de, Goya Das Zeitalter Der Revolution 1789-1830, Prestel Verlag: Kunsthalle, Múnich ; Hamburgo, 1980, pp. 173.

Tonnesson, Kare, Francisco Goya, Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo, 1996.

Matilla, J. M., Goya: luces y sombras, Fundación la Caixa y Museo Nacional del Prado, Barcelona y Madrid, 2012, pp. 301-302.

Bozal, V, 'El Sueño de la Razón produce monstruos' En: Historia de la belleza, de Fidias a Picasso, Círculo de Lectores - Fundación Amigos Museo del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 187-208 [199].

Matilla, J.M. Mena M.B., Goya: dibujos. Solo la voluntad me sobra, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2019, pp. 150 nº 77.

Matilla, J.M, Cuaderno C Francisco de Goya, Museo del Prado. Skira, Madrid, 2020.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Gassier, 1975. Núm. I 165.

Colección Dibujos Goya (Numeración Sánchez Catón). Núm. 46.

Catálogo Goya, Pierre Gassier y Juliet Wilson. Núm. 1256.

Inscriptions +

Blue ink stamp. Front, upper central area

En el recto del soporte principal, próximo al ángulo superior derecho, a pincel, tinta de hollín: “17” [la cifra “7” sobrepuesta a “6”]. En el margen inferior, a pluma, tinta parda: “Asi suelen acabar los hombres utiles”. En el ángulo inferior derecho, a lápiz compuesto: “106”.
Inscribed in pen and ink. Front

Exhibitions +

Goya: Dibujos del Museo del Prado. Melbourne
25.06.2021 - 03.10.2021

Goya. Drawings. "Only my Strength of Will Remains"
20.11.2019 - 16.02.2020

Solo la voluntad me sobra. Dibujos de Francisco de Goya
19.11.2019 - 16.02.2020

Goya. Light and Shade
16.03.2012 - 24.06.2012

Goya. Light and Shade
22.10.2011 - 29.01.2012

Francisco de Goya
10.02.1996 - 14.04.1996

Update date: 22-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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