The Dog

Perhaps no painting impacts me more than Goya's "Perro semi- hundido". No work of art expresses desamparo, abandon- ment, and complete solitude as does this master- piece. It is also absolutely original, a painting without any evident models. Fellow Aragonese painter Antonio Saura described it as the most beautiful painting in the world. I tend to agree, but it is a highly unsettling and disturbing beauty. Goya broke the mold with this one, painting with tremendous liberty and innovation. He was way ahead of his contemporaries. The painting can be seen in the Prado, along with the others in the pinturas negras series, in its totality one of Goya's great accomplishments, and really a defining work of modern art. The poor dog is not just alone, he looks to have been coldly abandoned. He is sinking in an undefinable landscape, enveloped in a strange ochre-tinted light, perhaps on the very cusp of disappearing definitively. He is looking up to his left, but within the boundary of the painting there is no suggestion of rescue. And there is no movement, the image is frozen in a moment of absolute anguish. A mirror? I feel drawn to the painting, fascinated by its unique strangeness, always wanting to understand how the poor dog got into this terrible predicament. Goya, unsentimental realist that he is, offers no clues, no explanations. I thought of this painting last week when Waldo rather suddenly injured (reinjured?) his back and let out a howl that expressed frightening, unbearable pain. That was a bad night, but we got through it. Thankfully, Waldo's situation was far from hopeless. I got him to the vet and he received a shot, then a course of antinflamatories and he was as good as new in no time. Waldo is drawn to the beach, loves the energy of the wind and waves, but usually won't touch the water. The other day he was off his leash and wandered towards the shore, where the beach drops down rather abruptly. For a moment, all I could see was his head against a perspectiveless landscape. Goya. Oh no. Frightening! It was only a moment.

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