Creativity & Goya¬â„s Hat

CW goya26x.jpg
Is it whimsy? Is it madness? Is it genius? Is it individuality? Is it all of these and more?

In today’s sameness society in which young people want to be unique like everybody else, the artist Goya stands out inspirationally as a man who knew who he was, what he wanted and expressed it all in his work and in his hat.

Likely you know Goya invented a hat with candles mounted on it so he could paint at night. (The photo is from the movie Goya’s Ghosts).

Billy Collin’s brilliantly captures what fascinates me in a line from his poem, “once you see this hat there is no need to read any biography of Goya or to memorize his dates.”

Believing as I do that there is unique, rich genius locked in every human soul, transcending genome, defying comparison, Goya inspires. Think of the boldness of children and the outrageously, unself-conscious acts they perform before they learn of conformity and convention. The sparks that fly in childhood will either be fanned to flame, or they will be tamped out. Sparks need air and space to grow into fire. They burn from the inside, too much external tampering (like sitting them in front of a TV or having them play games targeted at kids but designed by adults) can put out that iridescent flame.

Goya breathed deeply and created his candle hat and he wore it.

My advice to you? Fill this day with what is in you and in so doing allow the imago dei to glow like you’re a firefly.. God made a magnificent, one of a kind sunrise thias morning ~ did you see it?

Billy Collins, “Candle Hat.”

In most self-portraits it is the face that dominates:
Cezanne is a pair of eyes swimming in brushstrokes,
Van Gogh stares out of a halo of swirling darkness,
Rembrant looks relieved as if he were taking a breather
from painting The Blinding of Sampson.

But in this one Goya stands well back from the mirror
and is seen posed in the clutter of his studio
addressing a canvas tilted back on a tall easel.

He appears to be smiling out at us as if he knew
we would be amused by the extraordinary hat on his head
which is fitted around the brim with candle holders,
a device that allowed him to work into the night.

You can only wonder what it would be like
to be wearing such a chandelier on your head
as if you were a walking dining room or concert hall.

But once you see this hat there is no need to read
any biography of Goya or to memorize his dates.

To understand Goya you only have to imagine him
lighting the candles one by one, then placing
the hat on his head, ready for a night of work.

Imagine him surprising his wife with his new invention,
the laughing like a birthday cake when she saw the glow.

Imagine him flickering through the rooms of his house
with all the shadows flying across the walls.

Imagine a lost traveler knocking on his door
one dark night in the hill country of Spain.
“Come in, ” he would say, “I was just painting myself,”
as he stood in the doorway holding up the wand of a brush,
illuminated in the blaze of his famous candle hat.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

  • Register for CW
  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

  • CultureWatch:
  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177


    ‚©CRS Communications 2009

    Posted in Staublog in April 8, 2009 by | 1 Comment »

    One Response to Creativity & Goya¬â„s Hat

    1. janet donaghey on July 29, 2013 at 10:28 am

      inspiring words. wonderful poem

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    + 77 = 84

    More from Staublog