Sunday, 10 June 2012





Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) was the most powerful painter in 18th century Spain. The range of painting is from nightmarish visions of war to satirical portraits of high personalities.
He came from a poor family but rose to be the First Court Painter in Spain. He worked for the most powerful people and every monarch. He gained admission to the most powerful inner-circle of the courts. However, Goya did never portray in a more flattering style. The portraits were always telling the truth, no matter unflattering they may be.
In his long career, he suffered illnesses and lived in a time of a terrible war. Yet it gave his art a new, personal direction. He also began etchings (Prints) which venture into the darkest working of the human mind and behaviour. This work has not been explored at that time and brought Goya practically into the 20th century.
Before Goya was born, Spain's boundaries expanded further than the Roman Empire. Huge quantities of gold and silver came into Madrid from the colonies of Latin America. This enormous wealth was wasted on foreign wars and intrigues. The monarch, Church and nobility lived a luxurious life but the Spanish people were poor.
In the 18th century, when Goya was born, the kings of Spain were weak and inbred which was leading to insanity. Through the Church they maintained power which established the terrible inquisition. In Europe and America new ideas emerged about human rights and equality. Spain ignored the situation. When the French revolution in 1789 swept the country, Spain could not ignore it. Goya recorded this painful and turbulent time in history.
Goya was born in a small farming village of Fuendetodos which near Saragossa in Aragon. His schooling was very limited and he could hardly read and write. However, one of his teachers noticed he had a great gift in drawing.
Having a burning desire to learn, he managed to get a four-year apprenticeship with a local master painter. At the age of 17 he went to Madrid. He was refused twice by the Academy. He went to a studio of the neo-classical painter, Francisco Bayeu. After that he studied Baroque and Rococo art in Rome. Apparently, he fell in love with a nun and tried to kidnap her.
After returning to Spain and Saragossa, he received a commission of a serial of painting for a chapel. He became acquainted and married the sister of his former teacher. She was Josafa Bayeu. His teacher Bayeu became, in the meantime, a popular court painter under the leading artist Mengs. In 1774 he recommended Goya to paint some tapestry designs for King Charles III. Goya painted scenes of ordinary life, especially the 'majos' and 'majas' from the streets of Madrid. Apparently, it was then in fashion with the aristocrats who only saw luxurious living.

GOYA 1819




In the private collection of the King, Goya discovered the work of the famous 17th Century portraitist, Velasquez, which impressed him so deeply, that he declared later on, 'I have three masters, Rembrandt, Velasquez and Nature.'
During his career in 1760 a new style of paintings took place - the Neoclassicism. Especially in France, where the philosophers Voltaire and Diderot tried to establish a better social order which would be free of corruption of the Church and monarchy. The ancient republics of Greece and Rome were very influential. They believed that they were of nobility, justice and morality.
The classical art was also revived with the discovery of ancient treasure at Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy. Artist went to these sites and to Rome to draw countless sketches of the statues, sculptures and carvings,
Goya started to make a name for him and became a fellow of the Academy which rejected him when he was young. When his confidence grew he started to quarrel with his fellow artist, especially Bayeu. He arranged now his own commissions. The first important one was the Prime Minister Floridablanca.  In 1786 he became the King's painter.
Eventually, he became so busy that he worked so late and he fixed candles onto his hat to light up the canvas. One of patrons was the powerful Duke and Duchess of Osuna.
In 1789 the French monarchy became prisoners of the Revolution and Charles IV and Maria Luisa became King and Queen of Spain. He was a lout and dim-witted king and his wife dominated him. She made Manuel Godoy, one of her lovers, Prime Minister. This provoked hatred from the Spanish people and of the Crown Prince Ferdinand himself.
The King promoted Goya to Painter of the Chamber and sat for a portrait. The King was very pleased with the result. Goya's position was secured but at the age of 46 years he suddenly collapsed. He suffered a grave and mysterious illness and was blind, paralysed and closed to madness. He was stone deaf after he recovered. The fear that he might not have a lot of time to finish all his work made him turn more and more to dark and sinister subjects.
In spite of all his ill health, Goya gained two more sponsors, Duke and Duchess of Alba. Goya visited her household often and when her husband died in 1796 he went with her to their estate in Andalusia. It was assumed that they were lovers and likely that she inspired two of Goya's famous paintings; The Naked Maja and The Clothed Maja.
When he completed those years later, he was summoned to the Inquisition because nudes were banned in Spanish art. Goya managed to avoid imprisonment and never revealed the name of the model.
Goya produced his first etchings, los Caprichos (Caprices) in which he showed the folly of humans. They are full with monsters, witches and goblins. The central image is called 'The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters' and shows the nightmare which Goya fears when reason 'sleeps'.
These etchings did no harm to his reputation. In 1799 Goya became the First Court Painter. Then he received his most important commission, to portrait The Family of Charles IV. It took him a year to complete the painting and it shows the family in its splendour, arrogance and mediocrity.  After that the disaster started as the Crown Prince sited with Napoleon in order to overthrow his parents.
Napoleon seized the chance and invaded Spain.  Napoleon put his brother, Joseph, on the throne. In Madrid there was an uprising and the people were executed. Goya made a record of it and titled it 'The Second of May 1808' and 'The Third of May 1808'.
He done a new set of etching called 'The Disasters of War' which showed the atrocities of war during the six years between the French and the Spanish Guerrillas. It didn't show any heroes but rape, torture, murder and famine. The good scene in it was the girl Maria Augustin operating the guns during the siege of Goya's own city of Saragossa. He never published these etching but they were one of his greatest work. His intended message was for men not to be barbaric.
Goya remained, after the war, the First Court Painter' with the new King Ferdinand VII. The King paid little attention to him and Goya withdrew from court's life. He lived in a house in Madrid. His wife was now dead and a handsome, mysterious woman, Leocadia Weiss and her daughter Rosario lived with him.
Even so he was very ill, he still worked hard. He covered the walls of the house with dark and disturbing pictures. These pictures are called the 'The Black Paintings' and the most terrifying 'Saturn Devouring One of His Sons'.
Shortly afterward Goya left Spain and went to Bordeaux. He loved the peace and tranquillity. He painted miniatures with Rosarito.  In 1828, his grandson and daughter-in-law visited him and he wrote that he was indisposed with so much happiness.
He died a few weeks later surrounded by family.
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