The 18th Century Spanish artist Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes has been called the “most radical artist that ever lived”. He was not afraid to shock with his depictions of the darkest sides of human nature, and his work still shocks us today. Goya rose from humble beginnings to become the official court painter to the kings of Spain. But while he created dazzling portraits of royals and aristocrats, his personal vision was filled with madmen, witches, beggars, and fantastical creatures of the night. His years in the Spanish court coincided with one of the most turbulent times in the country’s history, and his graphic images of war and suffering reveal a compulsion to make art that changed the way we think about the world.
Bridget Kendall discusses Goya’s life and works with Mark Roglán, Director of the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, in the US; Janis Tomlinson, Director of Special Collections and Museums at the University of Delaware in the US; And Xavier Bray, Director of the Wallace Collection in London, UK.
(Photo: The Third of May by Francisco Goya. Credit: UIG/Getty Images)
Antigone: A Drama of Defiance
The play Antigone by the Greek playwright Sophocles was written almost 2,500 years ago, but to this day it is believed to be the most performed play- anywhere in the world. It tells the story of Antigone, a girl who ends up challenging the power of the ruler of Thebes, in a devastating battle of wills that pits family duty against the law of the state. So why does this story of civil disobedience still speak to people, and how was it originally received by its very first audience in Ancient Athens in the 5th century BCE? Joining Rajan Datar to discuss Antigone and its later modern interpretations are the acclaimed actor, director and former Greek Culture Minister Lydia Koniordou, the theatre director Olivier Py who staged Antigone with male prisoners at this year’s Avignon Theatre Festival in France, the Syrian playwright Mohammad Al Attar who’s the author of a new adaptation of Antigone about Syrian women refugees, and Dr Rosie Wyles, Lecturer in Classical History at the University of Kent, and author of “Costume in Greek Tragedy”.
Image: Antiogne and the body of Polynices (Artist: Lachmann. Credit: Print Collector/Getty Images)
The Master and Margarita: Devilish Satire
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, which tells the fantastical story of a visit of the devil to the Soviet Union, is considered to be one of the most successful Russian novels of the 20th Century. Written in secret in the 1930s when Stalinist repression of the arts was at its height, the novel was only published more than 25 years later, when its blend of biting satire and magic realism created a sensation, not just in Russia but also in the West, inspiring rock bands like The Rolling Stones.
This programme explores the novel and its cultural influence, and also asks how it reflects Bulgakov’s often traumatic experience as a writer in Stalinist Russia. Joining Bridget Kendall are Julie Curtis, the biographer of Mikhail Bulgakov, and professor of Russian literature at Oxford University, Peter Mansilla-Cruz, the director of the Bulgakov museum in Moscow, Edythe Haber, associate of the Davis Centre at Harvard University and professor emerita at University of Massachusetts, Boston, and Dr Olga Voronina from SSEES, University College, London, who have both published widely on Bulgakov’s writings.
(Photo: Improvisation 33 (Orient 1) by Wassily Kandinsky. Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
Fermentation: Ancient Food Alchemy
Whether it’s kimchi, kombucha, kefir or kraut, fermented foods are today all the rage. And yet people have been fermenting food and beverages for thousands of years – to preserve food stuffs, to break down toxins, to mark rituals and to enhance flavour.
Without knowledge of the science, local communities practised fermentation instinctively, through trial and error and by careful observation. In the 18th and 19th centuries, scientists argued over why foods fermented as they did. Many believed in the theory of ‘spontaneous generation’. But it was not until the discoveries of Louis Pasteur that the micro-organisms at work in food which bring about fermentation began to be understood. Ironically, Pasteur’s research led to a widespread preoccupation with killing the very bacteria that aid fermentation – combined with the growth of food production on an industrial scale.
More recently, fermented food and drink has been marketed for its health benefits, with claims it can enhance the bacteria in our intestinal tracts, boost our immune systems and even lower the risk of contracting some serious diseases.
Rajan Datar attempts to separate fact from fiction, with the help of three experts: the American fermentation revivalist Sandor Katz, Danish microbiologist Dennis Sandris Nielsen and the chef and food writer Olia Hercules, who’ll be demonstrating how to make a simple fermented recipe.
Photo: Sauerkraut being made in a jar (Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
The Emergence of Modern Turkey
100 years ago, Turkish defeat in World War One signalled the end of the once great Ottoman Empire. What emerged was a European orientated secular republic led by a man who used social engineering to shape Turkey in his own image – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Bridget Kendall examines this key period of Turkish history and asks whether modernisation could have been brought in less forcefully, and why the women who were helping bring about similarly progressive ideas were eventually side-lined. And what impact did Ataturk’s social revolution have on the arts and literature? Joining Bridget is Recep Boztemur, Professor of History at the Middle Eastern Technical University in Ankara, Dr Hülya Adak from Sabanci university in Istanbul, who specialises in gender and nationalism, and the actor, theatre director and playwright Yeşim Özsoy, whose latest play examines Turkish identity from 1918 onwards.
Photo: A statue of Ataturk located in Marmaris harbor, Turkey. (Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)