Teaching Students Aboutthe Painting, “Saturn Devouring His Son”
“Saturn Devouring His Son” is a painting by Spanish romantic artist Francisco Goya. It is a daunting piece that is both gripping and grotesque, depicting the Greco-Roman mythological figure Saturn consuming one of his offspring. Teaching students about this artwork can offer an engaging perspective on art history, mythology, and human emotions.
Educators must provide context before delving into Goya’s work. Saturn is the Roman version of the Greek god Cronus. As part of the ancient Greek myth, Cronus feared that one of his children would overthrow him as he had overthrown his father. To prevent this from happening, he consumed each of his children upon their birth. The story has been alive for centuries and has appeared in various forms throughout art history.
When discussing “Saturn Devouring His Son,” it is essential to cover aspects like composition, technique, and color choice. Goya painted this piece directly onto the walls of his home during his later years when he was deaf and isolated, which could explain the intensity and darkness of the art.
To create a striking image―and in part due to limited access to resources―Goya mainly used dark shades with sparse use of colors. The black background contrasts strongly with Saturn’s pale skin, drawing attention to the grim act taking place.
Goya’s brush strokes are raw and unrefined, giving off an immediate and spontaneous feeling to the scene. Encourage students to observe and discuss how the brushwork gives life and energy to an already harrowing image.
Teaching students about “Saturn Devouring His Son” offers opportunities to explore themes such as power, fear, and human darkness. By examining these themes in mythological stories compared to real-life societies and institutions, students can grasp an understanding of how power dynamics can lead to tragic consequences.
Connecting to Contemporary Art
Comparing “Saturn Devouring His Son” to other art depicting the myth will show different artists’ approaches and sensibilities. Further connections could be made to contemporary artists like Damien Hirst, who often explore themes of mortality and decay in their works.