His name, Francisco Goya, born in 1746, one of Spains most innovative painters and etchers; also one of the triumvirateincluding El Greco and Diego Velzquezof great Spanish masters. Much in the art of Goya is derived from that of Velzquez, just as much in the art of the 19th-century French master douard Manet and the 20th-century genius Pablo Picasso is taken from Goya. Trained in a mediocre rococo artistic milieu , Goya transformed this often frivolous style and created works, such as the famous The third of May, 1808, that have as great an impact today as when they were created
Goya was born in the small Aragonese town of Fuendetodos (near Zaragoza) on March 30, 1746. His father was a painter and a gilder of altarpieces, and his mother was descended from a family of minor Aragonese nobility. Facts of Goya’s childhood are scarce. He attended school in Zaragoza at the Escuelas Pias. Goya’s formal artistic education commenced when, at the age of 14, he was apprenticed to a local master, Jos Luzan, a competent although little-known painter in whose studio Goya spent four years. In 1763 the young artist went to Madrid, where he hoped to win a prize at the Academy of San Fernando. Although he did not win the desired award, he did make the acquaintance of Francisco Bayeu, an artist also from Aragn, who was working at the court in the academic manner imported to Spain by the German painter Anton Raphael Mengs. Bayeu (the brother of Goya’s wife) was influential in forming Goya’s early style and was responsible for his participation in an important commission, the fresco decoration of the Church of the Virgin in El Pilar in Zaragoza.
In 1771 Goya went to Italy for approximately one year. His activity there is relatively obscure; he spent some months in Rome and also entered a
composition at the Parma Academy competition, in which he was successful. Returning to Spain about 1773, Goya participated in several other fresco projects, including that for the Charterhouse of Aula Dei, near Zaragoza, in 1774, where his paintings prefigure those of his greatest fresco project, executed in the Church of San Antonio de la Florida, Madrid, in 1798. It was at this time that Goya began to do prints after paintings by Velzquez, who would remain, along with Rembrandt, his greatest source of inspiration.
By 1786 Goya was working in an official capacity for King Charles III, the most enlightened Spanish monarch of the 18th century. Goya was appointed first court painter in 1799. His tapestry cartoons executed in the late 1780s and early 1790s were highly praised for their candid views of everyday Spanish life. With these cartoons Goya revolutionized the tapestry industry, which, until that time, had slavishly reproduced the Flemish genre scenes of the 17th-century painter David Teniers. Some of Goya’s most beautiful portraits of his friends, members of the court, and the nobility date from the 1780s. Works such as Marquesa de Pontejos show that Goya was then painting in an elegant manner somewhat reminiscent of the style of his English contemporary Thomas Gainsborough.