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Francisco de Goya

Francisco de Goya

Photo by Aaina Sharma on Unsplash

As promised in my previous post, a write up about the highly acclaimed Spanish artist Francisco de Goya who originated from the province of Zaragoza (Emilio, the stress on Zaragoza is for your benefit 😜). Please do leave a comment if you agree, disagree or view things differently.

Here is an abridged version:

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes AKA Goya was a master painter and printmaker who lived in Spain during the 18th and 19th century. He was prolific, creating pivotal artwork despite recurring illness which led to him to become completely deaf. His work span c.60 years: commissioned or for himself and he worked up until his death at the age of 82, in France, where he had exiled himself.

His art includes acclaimed portraits which were detailed and captured the subjects’ personalities. Also, dramatic paintings and dark etchings which chronicled the tumultuous period associated with ‘enlightenment’. In particular, the impact of The Peninsular War and its aftermath on individuals.

The much longer version:

Goya was born c.270 years ago, in a village called Fuendetodos which is located in the province of Zaragoza.

In his 20s and after training in Madrid and Rome, Goya started working at the Royal Tapestry Factory in Madrid, painting “cartoon tapestries” (the paintings used by weavers as reference when producing tapestries).

The “Goya Tapestries” were destined for the royal residences in Spain as wall decorations and the brief received from the reigning King Carlos/Charles III (who was focused on social welfare) was for the tapestries to be humorous; depicting rural scenes. For this reason, Goya’s early paintings were mostly concerned with nature and happy looking commoners cavorting in idyllic sceneries.

The cartoon tapestries were appreciated for their tonalities and realistic details and Goya slowly won recognition from King Carlos/Charles III. He landed the position of “Royal Court Painter” while he was in his 30s and became “Chief Court Painter” a decade later, under King Carlos/Charles IV (who already had his homes adorned by Goya’s pieces while being the Crown Prince).

Goya gained access to the royal collection while undertaking the role of court painter and was thus able to meticulously study the techniques of the great Masters like Velazquez and Rembrandt which he then incorporated into his portraits. Goya solidified his reputation as a portrait artist, accepting commission after commission from the royal family as well as aristocrats, producing detailed and realistic pieces which captured the subjects’ personalities.

Note: Many of these portraits are displayed in major art museums around the world. Goya shocked society with his realistic portrait “The Nude Maja” (realistic = never been painted before pubic hair).

Goya started suffering from an undiagnosed illness when he was around 47 (until today, despite the many hypotheses and exhumation of his body, no one seems to have definitely solved the mystery of his illness). Reports suggest he was bed ridden for a number of years.

Goya eventually recovered but was rendered completely deaf. He started to produce art on his own accord instead of relying on requests: sharing his political and social commentaries through new paintings and etchings. He continued with this practice when the French enlightenment arrived in Spain via the devious invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte which triggered the ”Peninsular War“ (1801-1814) also referred by Napoleon as his Spanish Ulcer. Goya’s art chronicled the atrocities of war and the high price paid by the individuals.

The artist remained a court painter when Joseph Bonaparte was brought in to rule Spain by his younger brother who was bent on kicking out the House of Bourbon (by now King Ferdinand VII). Goya got to keep his job under the new regime but the job and his life were at risk when his former boss, the Comeback King Ferdinand/Fernando VII returned to claim what he considered was his divine rights. The King did not buy into the idea that the people could organise themselves and reintroduced absolute monarchy not once but twice and punished those who disagreed. Goya was lucky for unlike other liberals who were either killed or imprisoned, was allowed to remain free and gainfully employed. (Here: the King’s portrait done by Goya which some argue to be unflattering).

Goya continued to etch his observations and in his 70s went to reside in a villa outside Madrid. After recovering from yet another bout of illness, Goya embarked on applying oil paint to the walls of his living room and dining room producing a series of dark and gloomy images for his own viewing pleasure (the series were later discovered and removed from the walls and affixed to canvasses to be exhibited in museums with the name “Goya’s Black Paintings”). He did not stay at the villa for long. The charged political climate under King Ferdinand VII led him to exile himself in Bordeaux, France. He continued working, producing various pieces of art until his death at the age of 82 in Bordeaux.

(Note: The above excluded debates relating to his love life especially in his latter years. Also the account of his initial years as an apprentice when he was trying to move forward, training with Francisco Bayeu, his subsequent marriage to his sister, Josefa Bayeu, which some say elevated his fledging position, allowing him to join Francisco Bayeu who was serving the Crown in Madrid. In Madrid and through Bayeu, Goya gained access to his would be mentor, the German artist Anton Raphael Meng.

Back from Zaragoza

Back from Zaragoza