FRANCISCO DE GOYA
Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes, March 30, 1746 (Fuendetodos, Spain); died April 16, 1828 (Bordeaux, France)
Dramatic, figurative painting; bold free-flowing technique; drawings and etchings depict dark, satirical, and macabre visions of human suffering.
Francisco Goya is the most important Spanish artist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Unusually, he achieved success in his lifetime, acquiring and retaining noble patronage. In 1774, he was introduced to the royal workshops, thus beginning a lifelong relationship with royalty that would span four ruling monarchies. In contrast to the dark visions that dominated his later career, Goya's early work was fresh and lighthearted. His vivacious celebrations of Spanish people at leisure reflect the hopefulness of the age in which he was living, and recall the playful rococo style of artists such as Giambattista Tiepolo. At the start of his career, Goya joined the Madrid studio of the painter brothers Francisco and Ramon Bayeu y Subias soon after they established themselves in the city in 1763. Goya formed a close bond with the artists (eventually marrying their sister, Josefa, in 1774). Two failed attempts to submit entries to the Real Academia des Bellas Artes, San Fernando, however, prompted Goya to leave Madrid for Rome in 1770. He probably met the German artist Anton Raphael Mengs in Rome. It was Mengs who started Goya on his career at court, summoning him to Madrid in 1774 to paint cartoons for the tapestries of the Royal Factory of Santa Barbara. Goya went on to receive a stream of commissions from the aristocracy, creating sensitive and flamboyant portraits that, with their broad and quick brushstrokes, testify to the wealth and power of the sitters as well as to their emotional states of mind. By the age of forty, Goya was appointed painter to King Charles III, and in 1789 he became court painter to the newly crowned King Charles IV. The year 1789 marked the start of a period of great turbulence, beginning with the overthrow of the French monarchy and continuing to 1793 with France declaring war on Spain. During this period, Goya traveled to Cadiz, Andalusia, with his friend, the wealthy businessman and art collector Sebastian Martinez y Perez. While in Cadiz, Goya suffered a severe illness that was to leave him deaf. He returned to Madrid in 1793, but from this time on his work became much darker. In 1799, he completed and published his famous allegorical etchings The Caprichos. These and the later serious The Disaster of War (c. 1810-1820) , not published until 1863, testify to the brutalities and terror of the time. Although Goya's etchings are grounded in the baroque tradition of dramatically contrasting light and dark, they have a newfound modernity thanks to his unique treatment of the compositions. Goya's later paintings became increasingly naturalistic, even grotesque. His portrait The Family of Charles IV (1800) is both a depiction of a strong and united monarchy and a lifelike, unidealized group portrait. The enlightened monarchy of Charles IV was ended by Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Spain in 1808 and the ensuing Peninsular War (1808-1814). Although repulsed by French atrocities, Goya pledged his allegiance to Napoleon. The Bourbon monarchy was restored with Napoleon's fall in 1814 but the new king, Ferdinand VII, rejected the enlightened views of his predecessors, reinstated the Spanish Inquisition, and declared himself "absolute monarch" before unleashing a reign of terror. Questioned about his loyalty to the occupiers, Goya responded by commemorating Spain's uprising against the French in two paintings: The Second of May 1808 (1814) and The Third of May 1808 (1814). The second of these depicts the merciless execution of Spaniards on a hill just outside Madrid. Both paintings exemplify the brooding atmosphere and loose, fluid brushstrokes of Goya's late work and his stylistic debt to Sir Peter Paul Rubens and Diego Velazquez. Between 1820 and 1823, in his small country retreat nicknamed La Quinta del Sordo (the deaf man's house), Goya completed a series of sinister, terrifying wall paintings and canvases known as Black Paintings. Aggrieved by the political situation in Spain, Goya retired to Paris and Bordeaux. He remained there until his death, aged eighty-two.