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Francisco de Goya

1746-1828

 

Francisco Jose de Goya was born in Fuendetodos, Spain, on March 30th, 1746.  His family later relocated to Saragossa, where Goya came to be under the tutelage of  local artist Jose Luzan.  A few years later, after a sojourn in Italy to study, Goya returned to Saragossa where he received his first commission, painting frescoes in the Cathedral of El Pilar.  Goya got the commission through Francisco Bayeu, a fellow artist also from Aragón, who they say was influential in helping Goya develop his earlier style.   Bayeu was also the brother of Josefa Bayeu, whom Goya married in 1773.   It was also around that time that Goya became involved in the creation of several other frescoes, influenced by the paintings of Velásquez and Rembrandt.  It is interesting to note that like Rembrandt, Goya and his wife had several children who did not reach adulthood.  Only one of his sons survived.

In addition to his several frescoes, Goya created designs for a tapestry factory in Madrid, painting scenes of everyday life in Spain. His worked were very sought after, and in 1780 he was elected to the Royal Academy of San Fernando.  Shortly thereafter, he was named painter to  King Charles IV, who was perhaps the most educated of the Spanish Monarchs of the era, and ultimately appointed Goya to the post of court painter.  Goya painted portraits of the social elite, but he also continued making more tapestries.  This was the height of Goya's artistic career, and he was at this point, considered the most successful, sought after and admired of all Spanish artists.

Alas, tragedy struck, and Goya was stricken with a mysterious illness that left him completely deaf.  Later, after the death of his friend and brother-in-law Francisco Bayeu, he took over his duties as Director of Painting in the Royal Academy from 1795 to 1797, when he resigned due to ill health.  Two years later, in 1799, he was given the title of  First Spanish court painter.  Being only capable of communicating via sign language or handwriting, Goya became a silent observer of the world around him.  Surprisingly enough, his work took an unexpected twist, and he developed a more caricature-like style with which he created several satirical illustrations based on human weakness and his own whimsical imaginings. The etchings were published under the title Los Caprichos, meaning  "the whims.  Goya had broken the barriers imposed by classical training, eschewing the Rococo tradition, and was now opening up new avenues which would ultimately lead to his being referred to as the father of modern art. 

From 1808 to 1814, the time of Napoleon's occupation of Spain and the war of independence, he served as court painter to the French. His work became a testament to the horror of war;  the Disasters of War, a series of starkly realistic etchings on the atrocities of war, remained hidden for many years, only to be  published in 1863, long after Goya's death.  When the war was over and the Monarchy was restored, Goya was granted a full pardon for having served the French court, but unfortunately, the new King was not as impressed with Goya as his predecessor had been.  Perhaps Goya's most controversial paintings, that of the naked Maya  came under scrutiny by the Spanish Inquisition, who demanded an explanation for the outrageous piece.  Nudes weren't commonplace in 18th century Spain, and the new regime did not offer a favorable climate for those wishing to work outside of traditional religious art.

Goya regained some degree of popularity after publishing a series of etchings on Bullfighting called "Tauromaquia".  In 1819, he moved to a secluded and soon thereafter moved to a private residence outside of Madrid, where he gave free reign to his fevered imaginings.  He covered the walls of his home with his "Black Paintings" Their vivid depictions of witchcraft, the horrific  Saturn Devouring one of his Children and other dark subject matter were perhaps the artist's way of thumbing his nose at the inquisition, with images that conveyed the very essence of heresy. But it wasn't the first time Goya had chosen to take this dark path, his series on the Napoleonic invasion and an etching entitled The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters were perfect examples of the artist being in touch with his dark sideIt was also around that time that Josepha, his wife passed away.  Soon thereafter, Goya took into his home a lady named Leocadia who had a five-year-old daughter Rosalie whom Goya came to love as if she were his own.   A few years later, seeing there would be no return to a liberal regime in Spain, Goya packed his belongings and moved to France, in self-imposed exile.  Goya settled in Bordeaux, where he would continue working, experimenting with techniques such as lithography, which was very popular in France around that time.  On April 16, 1828, Goya suffered a massive stroke, and died at the age of  82.

Francisco Goya was the Father of Modern Art, his idea that the artist's personal vision had more importance than his subject opened new ways of thinking which helped art break free from commissioned portraits and religious imagery.  Goya's artistic career lasted over 60 years, and in that time he showed an incredible evolution from Baroque all the way through his own groundbreaking style.  Artists ranging from Manet to Pablo Picasso have cited his work as being influential in their development.  Goya painted for himself, his view of the world, and his candor gave his work resonance that would not only inspire, but also enlighten.

 

 

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