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Francisco Goya

Artscolumbia / Artists  / Francisco Goya

FRANCISCO GOYAFrancisco José de Goya-i-Lucientes was born on March 39, 1746, in the small town of Fuendetodos, near Zaragoza. His father was a poor commoner, who had a tiny workshop for gilding altars. His mother came from a family of impoverished hidalgo. Parents could not even assume that the years would pass, and their son would be on an equal footing not only with the representatives of the Spanish nobility but also with the king himself.

Stormy Youth

He spent the first years of his life in the village of Francisco. In 1760, his parents moved to Zaragoza. Here, the boy first learns the basics of writing in a school at the monastery and then goes to study to the studio of Jose Luciano Martinez. He was a very mediocre artist, a follower of conditional academic art.

Twenty-year-old Goya, who had a huge experience of participating in dashing street slaughter, as a result of one of them is forced to leave the city. The young man rightly believes that the best way is to hide in a crowded Madrid. He leaves without much regret Martinez’s workshop, who did not keep the young man, because, immediately seeing in the temperamental, restless pupil a bright spark of talent, he himself had long recommended him to go to continue his studies in Madrid. Moving to the Spanish capital, Goya twice attempted to enter the Madrid Art Academy of San Fernando, but both times fortune turned away from him.

Difficult Beginning

The years of wanderings began. At the end of 1769, Goya goes to Italy. Two years later, he receives the second prize of the Parma Academy of Arts. This success helped the beginning painter to believe in himself. A born adventurer and desperate fighter, Goya, even being far from his homeland, remained true to himself. The legend ascribes to him a daring raid on a nunnery in Rome, the successful abduction of a beautiful Italian from there and the ensuing duel from which the artist came out victorious. In 1771, Goya returned to Zaragoza. He begins the activities of a professional painter, engaging in church murals. In 1773, Goya arrived in Madrid and after a while starts working on panels that serve as samples for the carpets of the Royal Treasury Manufactory. Only ten years later, he receives an important order from the high ranking royal grandfather of the count of Floridablanca. After a successful implementation, he becomes a portraitist recognized in the circles of the Spanish aristocracy.

An Incurable Disease

In the autumn of 1792, Goya was struck by a serious illness that ends in complete deafness, although everything could have ended much worse: the artist felt constant weakness, severe headaches, partially lost his sight and for a time was even paralyzed. The researchers believe that all of these were complications of syphilis, which was launched in his youth. Deafness, of course, greatly complicated the life of the artist, but not so much that he denied himself in simple human joys.

In 1799, Goya reached the peak of his career and was elevated to the rank of the first court painter of King Charles IV.  However, everything was not so wonderful. His painting, especially the images of naked women, caused extreme irritation of the Holy Inquisition. Some of the most zealous churchmen declared Goya almost a devil since he could not just picture this, but also breathe a passionate life into his canvases, making these naked women mysteriously attractive. Fortunately, Goya had influential patrons at court, and the Inquisition at the turn of the century was no longer so powerful.

Restless Old Age

Over the years, the artist’s health deteriorates, and his painting becomes gloomier. Series dedicated to the auto-da-fe and the horrors of war come to replace the startling satirical etchings of the series “Caprichos” (1799). The latter was created under the impression of Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. Then, in official portraits, which Goya as “the first painter of the King” was obliged to write from time to time, an unthinkable in the works of this purpose sarcasm towards the powerful of this world could be noticed. In 1812, the artist’s wife died. Son Javier marries and begins to live separately. Goya remains completely alone. In 1819, he retired from business, left Madrid and returned to his country house.  He paints the walls of his home from inside with gloomy frescoes, the so-called “Black canvases,” which are, in fact, visions and hallucinations of a lonely, tired man. In 1824, because of the fear of persecution by the new government, the artist sought permission to leave for “treatment” in France. Two years old master lived in France. The great Spanish artist died on the night of April 15 to 16, 1828, on the seventeenth day after his 82nd birthday.

Peculiarities of Creativity

The range of skills of Francisco Goya is huge both on subjects (he painted portraits, genre and battle scenes) and on the used techniques. According to the Spanish philosopher and publicist Jose Ortega y Gasset, the artist “appealed to all possible topics: religious and secular, diabolical and phantasmagoric. Goya did not ignore any genre, whether it be religious and iconic painting, allegory, a composition in perspective, a satirical engraving or a caricature. In this universal, all-embracing character of Goya’s creativity lies one of the reasons that none of the art historians could determine the organic integrity of the artist’s entire art.

The passionate, sharp dramatic art of the Spanish artist was in many respects consonant with his time. Goya witnessed social upheavals at the turn of two centuries. He experienced a period of the awakening of national culture in the late 18th century, the invasion of Napoleon in the early 19th century, the rise of the Spanish revolution and its tragic death.

Goya began his creative career from the struggle against the academic principles of painting and for the establishment of national traditions. His art became the pinnacle of the development of the entire Spanish culture of the late XVIII-early XIX century, reflecting its progressive and humanistic ideal.

Goya and Research/Analysis on His Works

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