Goya’s Fantastic Vision

What kind of a person would honor their friend’s birthday with a work of art that depicts a strange, harrowing nightmare? Me, that’s who 😆 Don’t worry. The birthday boy is my very dear friend – artist, photographer, and blogger Fred Hatt, and I know he won’t be offended. Happy Birthday FRED!!

After years of friendship, and god knows how many conversations about art, I’m well aware of Fred’s favorites. And I can say with 100% certainty that the great Spanish painter Francisco de Goya is on his list of those who most inspire him. Fred is not alone in his admiration of Goya. Minvera Durham, director of Spring Studio – the very place where Fred and I first met – is also a huge fan of Goya. I must confess that Goya is one of those artists for whom my respect grew after becoming an artist’s model. A long time ago, Goya’s macabre painting Saturn Devouring his Son had seriously creeped me out, so I was reluctant to explore his other works. But with little more maturity and deeper understanding of art, I’ve come to appreciate Goya’s work much more.

In his later years, after suffering from illnesses, deafness, and a tumultuous political atmosphere in his native Spain, Goya created a series of dark, terrifying, mysterious works known as the “Black Paintings”. He did not intend them for public consumption. Instead, he painted them directly onto the walls of his house near Madrid, revealing his disturbed and paranoid mental state. This was a man in fear. Confusion. Despair. Revealing a severe disillusionment with humanity.

For this post I’ve chosen the Goya piece Asmodea, or “Fantastic Vision”, circa 1823. It depicts two people flying through the air, possibly witches, with soldiers aiming guns at them. Though art historians have analyzed this work, along with all the other Black Paintings, and speculated about it’s “meaning”, the truth is we don’t really know what the hell is going on here. And I personally prefer it that way. Must we know? Of course not. Enlarge the file for a better view and let the man’s potent expression speak for itself:

Again, a very happy birthday to you, Fred. Thanks for enriching my knowledge of art, challenging traditional notions of “beauty”, and celebrating the powers of all forms of visual communication 🙂


25 thoughts on “Goya’s Fantastic Vision

  1. fredh1 says:

    Thank you for a wonderful gift of inspiration!

    People always try to figure out what the “black paintings” mean, but I think a lot of their power lies in their ambiguity.

    I grew up in a house where the bathroom walls were covered with tiles decorated with random swirly patterns in deep magenta and white. When one is doing the things one does in the bathroom, the mind is idle, and I would stare at these tiles and see fantastical scenes: horned dragons, horses rearing up in fire, robed wizards stirring the winds, nude bodies sealed in eggs or floating in the sky. The mind is predisposed to see patterns, and whether it is a face in an electrical outlet or a sacred figure in a water stain on a wall, once the image has been seen it is hard not to keep seeing it. To me Goya’s black paintings look like that kind of imagery – the obsessive products of the imagination. I don’t know if they’re really based on random organic patterns found in the grain of wood or a clump of moss or whatever, but they look like that sort of thing that happens when the creative mind tries to see the pattern in chaos. I wonder if Goya made those paintings because he couldn’t stop seeing those things. Somehow I sense he didn’t know what they meant any more than we do. They are mysteries, compelling and confounding.

    I think of the Quinta del Sordo, the house where the black paintings filled the walls, as a kind of existentialist Sistine Chapel. The most famous paintings there are the most terrible – and isn’t Goya’s Saturn a hundred times more frightening than Munch’s Scream? But not all of the paintings are so nightmarish. My favorite among them is “The Dog”.

    Thank you again, Claudia. I love making and looking at art with you.

    • artmodel says:


      I’m so happy you enjoyed this post in celebration of both your birthday and the great Goya. By the way, I was almost going to post “The Dog”! I like that one a lot too.

      Loved your thoughts and comments on pattern imagery and the enigmatic qualities of the the Black Paintings.

      Happy Birthday again, dear friend. Best to you always, and we’ll talk/hang out very soon 🙂


  2. violinhunter says:

    I know what I like and I like this one. I had somehow forgotten about it. Thank you so much for posting it. (AND, happy birthday to Fred!)

    • artmodel says:

      Thank YOU violinhunter! I enjoy your comments.


      • violinhunter says:

        Claudia, Seriously, you need to consider writing a book – a book you would love writing. Your words have a flow that seems to come naturally – like the inevitability that great music possesses. I have never read a book by a model. There are many books (mostly autobiographies) by actors and musicians but by a model? I don’t think so. Of course, it would have to be well illustrated. (Sorry, I just HAD to say that. Forgive me please.)

        • Dan Hawkins says:

          violinhunter, I read a book last year called “Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object” by art model Kathleen Rooney. I was struck by how similar our paths to art modeling were. For instance, we both “discovered” that art classes drew live nude models from television sitcoms, her from an episode of “Growing Pains,” and myself from watching “Three’s Company.” She and I shared a few e-mails about things modeling related. But sorry, no illustrations…

          Here’s the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Live-Nude-Girl-Life-Object/dp/1557289492/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337261249&sr=8-1

          • violinhunter says:

            Thanks for the link – I saw the memoir by Kathleen Rooney and several other books on the subject as well. She got good reviews! I didn’t even know the book existed. If it were replete with illustrations (or, better yet, photos) I would quickly buy it. A picture is worth a thousand words they say. 🙂 Thanks again.

          • artmodel says:


            Can you believe I have still not read her book? Many people have recommended it to me. I really should check it out.


  3. Derek says:

    you must know your history of the arts
    I admire your brain.
    I always think you would be a great art history professor
    or maybe a writer.
    I encourage you to write a book something you know about.

  4. Elaine says:

    I second Derek’s comments. I have always said that you should write a book about your experiences as an art model and how you relate to this generation of artists as an inspiration for them. Not only are you a lover of art history but a perfect example of someone who lives a creative life with your beauty, honesty and intelligence.

    • artmodel says:


      You are my mother so you have to say those things. I’m kidding!! I kid.

      Really thanks. You have always believed in me. A book is a daunting undertaking, but hey, maybe someday 🙂

      Love you.


      • Bill MacDonald says:

        If you wrote it as fiction, you’d have a lot more freedom. I followed this program one year and it went pretty well:


        And you know plenty of people who could design the cover. Now, let me see, who should play you in the movie? 🙂 All kidding aside, the toughest part is actually sitting down and doing it.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Wasn’t it Goya, on your post about black, who used four or five different varieties?

    Anyway, happy birthday Fred! 🙂

  6. Elaine says:

    Fred, a heartfelt belated birthday.

    • fredh1 says:

      Thank you, Elaine. I agree with you that Claudia could write a book. There’s been enough good material on this blog to organize into a good solid core of a book.

  7. Derek says:

    awe that is so sweet from mother to daughter.
    Elaine you and I have something in common, My daughter who is 20
    have begun her life modeling career in Sydney and she is also very creative and very expressive and very fluid poser. I have not been to her
    sessions but she had shown me a painting of her from an artist in
    Design College Australia at first I was apprehensive but I took a second look and I was impressed by the artistry of this young man who captured my Peta I love the inclined posed she did and he captured the power the grace and soul of the art of it.

    You must be very proud of your daughter and believed in her passion and she loves what she does and is very happy and I also believe she should write in the future if her experience. Claudia is such a talented person and she is very inspiring for artists. I wish I could be there but I left that NYC life to live a quiet life out of the country.

  8. Elaine says:

    Derek, thank you for your lovely words about Claudia. I am proud that she has brought inspiration for artists though her professionalism and creative
    energy as you must be with your daughter. Good luck to her in her modeling career. Maybe someday we can see her and you in NYC.

  9. Dan Hawkins says:

    Elaine, just out of personal curiosity, I am wondering how Claudia told you about her decision to become an art model.

    I started modeling in 1984 when I was away at school, and I continued modeling even after I left but only as a part-time job on the side. I never told my mother about it. It wasn’t until 2001, when I won a spot as a contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” that I finally told my mom. I had made the decision to put info about my being a nude model on the little biography card that went to Regis whenever a contestant made it to the hot seat. I figured I only had about a 30 percent chance of making it to the hot seat anyway.

    I did somehow make it into that seat, and the card went to Regis as I sat down across from him. The producer who handed it to him even pointed to something on my card as Regis took it. When the cameras started rolling, Regis went straight into talking about nude art modeling. I was nervous about talking about it since it wasn’t something I freely made known to my full-time co-workers, etc., but once we got it out of the way, I was surprisingly calm about playing the game and answering the questions. And it did make for interesting television since the hot seat contestant before me was unemployed and didn’t say much. Regis really had to struggle to get the guy to say anything.

    We taped the show on a Wednesday, and it was scheduled to air that Sunday night. After flying back on Thursday, we went to my mom’s to pick up our toddler, and my wife told me that I absolutely had to tell her about my modeling. It wouldn’t have been right to have let her find out merely by watching the show. So I did… She was certainly surprised, but she seemed to take it in stride.

  10. Derek says:

    thank you Elaine and god bless you , Peta sends her regards to you and your daughter. May the time be right.

  11. Derek says:

    Well I can’t speak for Elaine, but I can tell you that Peta began her art modeling career to pay her bills for schooling. She wanted to be a writer and artist. At first, I was not pleased about since I was concerned about her
    safety and how she would be judged. She told me about it and I gave her a chance. Now I am very supportive of her art modeling and she did show me a painting that an artist did of her when she did this inclining pose that reminded me from a statue I saw in Rome. I looked at it and I was mesmerized by how she creates art with her body and how the artist worked well with her. I wish I had the painting but I would love to buy that to have it in my office.My greatest accomplishment is Peta just as Elaine’s greatest accomplishment is Claudia. as proud parents of great artist and models.

    My ex has some photos of her but she would not let me have it and I also have to respect Peta’s decision. All I can Is that me and Elaine are supportiive of our children’s art modeling choice> We look at it as art not as something degrading or pornographic. I believe Elaine can explain about Claudia . Take it away Elaine its all yours.

  12. Elaine says:

    First to Dan. Claudia was teaching American History in a private elementary school in 2005. The students loved her and were upset when she decided to leave. As much as she loved her students, she wanted to present a different approach to teaching history that was in conflict with the administration. Claudia wanted to impart original and creative ideas to the students. She was a non-conformist. Her family background also was an influence. Her father was a professional musician, her brother Chris is a composer of film scores and I am an artist that came of age during the Abstract Expressionism period of the 1950’s. So after teaching she was looking to do something that gave her sense of who she really was. After going to an audition she was booked for a modeling session on the spot.
    I had no problem accepting her decision, and as an artist who has drawn models in college and at art schools I understood the creative process and how a model can be an inspiration to an artist. In some way I looked at it as a coming home to her roots. I am so proud of her, she’s doing what she loves. She has a wonderful rapport with the artists, both professionals and students in New York City. Her reputation has grown over the years as a model and is in much demand.

    Dan, I hope this answered your question. I’m glad you finally did tell your Mom. The main thing is as parents we want our children to love what they do and be happy with their life.

  13. Elaine says:

    Derek, I can understand your concern for your daughter. I know it can be difficult for a parent when their child decides on a career path that is not
    expected as the norm. With Claudia, she was around music and art as a child. I took her and my son to children’s art classes on Saturdays at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When a child is exposed to art at a young age, there is no negative perception whatsoever in the body as degrading.
    Think of all the great painters in history who have painted nudes, my favorite is Degas. They extolled the female form as a thing of beauty.
    I am happy to hear that Peta is doing so well as a model. Support her in every way. She will love you even more for it.

    Regards from New York City.

  14. Derek says:

    To Claudia:

    I have enjoyed your knowledge that you shared with your viewers like myself. I have nothing but great respects for you as a model and art historian which is why I encourage you to write a book about it. You are the epitome of power, intelligence grace and beauty and eloquence that you possessed.Your mother is one lovely lady me and her have alot in common.I hope to hear more from your knowledge and what is going in the art community as a model and what other projects you have in mind.You have an amazing talent and god gave you a gift to great at what you are and keep on doing what you and more power to you. You still look like you can be my daughter you look younger than your age.Goya is my favorite artist.We both love John Lennon, I miss the old bloke.

    To Elaine (Claudia’s mum)
    I wnat to thank you for giving me great advice and I have learned a lot from you as well and I have a closer relationship with Peta. As I mentioned earlier that Peta is an artist model and a student as well as contemporary dancer. She recently invited me to work at the studio in Brisbane. She was well received to the artists most of the artists were in different age groups. Peta was amazing on that podium doing some of her contemporary dance poses. I have sketched her from a far distance. Her mother and I have watched her dance when she was a child and she was brilliant in what she does and I am still proud of Peta. I recently finished my last dose of chemo from my lymphoma ( I was diagnosed early stages of it but my doctor says I have good chance to beat this I am now 63).
    When the session was over she was given a standing ovation for her amazing talent projecting art with her body from years of ballet and contemporary dancing. Peta is such a special gem. I didn’t take offense and it reminded me of such painters from the Baroque and Renaissance period especially the Spaniard artists.We even went to lunch with her mother who is living with her and like us support our children. I wish her all the best in other things as well in whatever she does. Anyway it was lovely to talk to you both.

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