Francisco Goya

Francisco Goya was a Spanish romantic painter and printmaker regarded both as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns. Goya was court painter to the Spanish Crown but he also painted the portrait of Joseph Bonaparte, pretender to the Spanish throne, and documented the war. Through his works he was both a commentator on and chronicler of his era. The subversive imaginative element in his art, as well as his bold handling of paint, provided a model for the work of artists of later generations, notably Manet, Picasso and Francis Bacon.

Goya was born in Fuendetodos, Aragón, Spain. At age 14, he studied under the painter José Luzán before moving to Madrid where he studied with Anton Raphael Mengs, a painter who was popular with Spanish royalty. Goya submitted entries for the Royal Academy of Fine Art in 1763 and 1766, but was denied entrance. He then relocated to Rome, where in 1771 he won second prize in a painting competition organized by the City of Parma. Later that year, he returned to Saragossa and painted parts of the cupolas of the Basilica of the Pillar, a cycle of frescoes in the monastic church of the Charterhouse of Aula Dei, and the frescoes of the Sobradiel Palace. He studied with Francisco Bayeu y Subías and his painting began to show signs of the delicate tonalities for which he became famous.

Goya married Bayeu's sister Josefa in 1773. This marriage, and Francisco Bayeu's membership of the Royal Academy of Fine Art (from the year 1765) helped Goya to procure work as a painter of designs to be woven by the Royal Tapestry Factory. There, over the course of five years, he designed some 42 patterns, many of which were used to decorate (and insulate) the residences of the Spanish monarchs near Madrid. This brought his artistic talents to the attention of the Spanish monarchs who later would give him access to the royal court. He also painted a canvas for the altar of the Church of San Francisco El Grande in Madrid, which led to his appointment as a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Art.

In 1783, the Count of Floridablanca, a favourite of King Carlos III, commissioned Goya to paint his portrait. He also became friends with Crown Prince Don Luis, painting portraits of both the Infante and his family. During the 1780s, his circle of patrons grew to include the Duke and Duchess of Osuna, the King and other notable people of the kingdom whom he painted. In 1786, Goya was given a position as painter to Charles III. After the death of Charles III in 1788 and revolution in France in 1789, during the reign of Charles IV, Goya reached his peak of popularity with royalty.

In 1789 he was made court painter to Charles IV and in 1799 was appointed First Court Painter. He painted the King and the Queen, royal family pictures, portraits of the Prince of the Peace and many other nobles. His portraits are notable for their disinclination to flatter, and in the case of Charles IV of Spain and His Family, the lack of visual diplomacy is remarkable. Modern interpreters have seen this portrait as social satire; it is thought to reveal the corruption behind the rule of Charles IV.

Goya received orders from many of the Spanish nobility. At some time between late 1792 and early 1793, a serious illness left Goya deaf, and he became withdrawn and introspective. During his recuperation, he undertook a series of experimental paintings. His experimental art—which would encompass paintings and drawings as well as a bitterly expressive series of aquatinted etchings, published in 1799 under the title Caprichos—was done in parallel to his more official commissions of portraits and religious paintings. In 1798 he painted luminous and airy scenes for the pendentives and cupola of the Real Ermita (Chapel) of San Antonio de la Florida in Madrid. Many of these depict miracles of Saint Anthony of Padua set in the midst of contemporary Madrid.

French forces invaded Spain in 1808, leading to the Peninsular War of 1808–1814. The extent of Goya's involvement with the court of the "Intruder king", Joseph I, the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, is not known; he did paint works for French patrons and sympathisers, but kept neutral during the fighting. After the restoration of the Spanish king, Ferdinand VII, in 1814, Goya denied any involvement with the French. When his wife Josefa died in 1812, he was mentally and emotionally processing the war by painting The Charge of the Mamelukes and The Third of May 1808, and preparing the series of prints later known as The Disasters of War (Los desastres de la guerra). Ferdinand VII returned to Spain in 1814 but relations with Goya were not cordial. He painted portraits of the king for a variety of organizations, but not for the king himself.

Leocadia Weiss lived with and cared for Goya after Bayeu's death. Not much is known about her beyond her fiery temperament. Goya's works from 1814 to 1819 are mostly commissioned portraits, but also include the altarpiece of Santa Justa and Santa Rufina for the Cathedral of Seville, the print series of La Tauromaquia depicting scenes from bullfighting, and probably the etchings of Los Disparates. In 1819, with the idea of isolating himself, he bought a country house by the Manzanares river just outside of Madrid. There he created the Black Paintings with intense, haunting themes, reflective of the artist's fear of insanity and his outlook on humanity. Several of these, including Saturn Devouring His Son, were painted directly onto the walls of his dining and sitting rooms.

Goya lost faith in or became threatened by the restored Spanish monarchy's anti-liberal political and social stance and left Spain in May 1824 for Bordeaux and then Paris. He travelled to Spain in 1826, but returned to Bordeaux, where he died of a stroke in 1828, at the age of 82.