Goya, Francisco

views updated

Francisco Goya


Born March 30, 1746, in Fuendetodos, Spain; died of a stroke, April 16, 1828, in Bordeaux, France; son of Jose Goya (a gilder) and Gracia Lucientes; married Josefa Bayeu, 1773; children: twenty sons and daughters. Education: Studied at San Louis Academy, Saragossa, Spain, 1864, and in the studios of Jose Luzan y Martinez and Juan Ramirez, in Saragossa. Also studied in Madrid, Spain, 1763-68, and in Italy, 1770-71.


Painter, draughtsman, and printmaker. Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Barbara, Madrid, produced tapestry cartoons, 1775-92; Academy of San Fernando, Madrid, lieutenant director of painting, 1785-89; appointed court painter to Charles IV of Spain, 1789-98, First Court Painter, 1799-1824. Among his most famous works are The Madhouse at Saragossa, 1793, Portrait of Ferdinand Guillemardet, 1798, The Naked Maja, 1798, Los Caprichos (etchings) 1799, The Family of Charles IV, 1800, Los Desastres de la Guerra, 1808-20, Dos de Mayo, 1814, Tres de Mayo, 1814, and The Bordeaux Milkmaid, 1826-27. Exhibitions: Goya's works are mainly in the permanent collection of the Prado, Royal Academy of San Fernando, Madrid. His work is also collected internationally in numerous major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Major modern retrospectives include Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment, the Prado, Madrid, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Boston's Fine Arts Museum, 1988-89; Truth and Fantasy, 1994, a collection of Goya's small paintings; Goya: Another Look, 1999, at the Philadelphia Art Museum; and Goya: Images of Women, 2001-02, Prado, Madrid, and National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Awards, Honors

Elected to Spanish Royal Academy, 1780.


(Edited by M. Agueda and X. De Salas) Cartas a Martin Zapater (letters), [Madrid, Spain], 1982.


"Among artists of the past," wrote Jonathan Brown in the New Republic, "none has greater immediacy than Goya." Brown put such immediacy down to the fact that, "like all universal artists, his genius is ample enough to accommodate the shifts of taste and ideology that come with every new age." Brown further noted that there are many different Goyas: "Goya the Romantic, Goya the Populist, Goya the Surrealist, Goya the Marxist." A Charles Dickens of the two-dimensional arts, Francisco Goya could represent the highest and the lowest that society offered, in unsparing detail. His court portraits and scenes of everyday life can be set off against his scathing pictorial criticisms of society as seen in his etchings of the Los Caprichos series; his bucolic cartoon paintings for the royal tapestry workshop are balanced by the Disasters of War and The Third of May, both of which illustrate only too graphically the horrors of war. Because of delving in such extremes, Goya is often analyzed for his duality; a man who lived two separate lives, the inner and more irascible one perhaps fanned into being by the 1792 illness which left him deaf for the second half of his long life. Critics dispute whether or not Goya's late work, the series the Black Paintings, with which the artist covered the walls of his house, prove that Goya was actually certifiably mad himself. Yet as Time's Robert Hughes noted, "What is indisputable is that mad or not, Goya projected European art from the eighteenth into the nineteenth century, inspiring major art movements, Romanticism, Impressionism, Expressionism and Surrealism along the way. Not for nothing is he considered the first modern painter."

According to E. Lynne Moss, writing in American Artist, others find the painter's strength and lasting power to be the result of this very dualism. "Goya's genius lies in the remarkable diversity of his oeuvre. Images as innocuous as The Parasol make way for the pathos of The Third of May and then for the puzzling and macabre so-called black paintings of his later years. Besides this versatility in subject matter, he mastered several media, creating works in oil, aquatint, and ink, among others. Undoubtedly, this facility with technique freed Goya in his depictions, ultimately allowing him to conjure images of profound emotional content." Priscilla E. Muller, writing in Grove Art Online, called Goya "the most important Spanish artist of the last quarter of the eighteenth and the first quarter of the nineteenth centuries." Not only did Goya serve three generations of Spanish kings, but his work also "spans the period from the late Rococo to Romanticism and, at the last, presages Impressionism," according to Muller. During his six-decade long career, the prolific Goya produced about 700 paintings, 900 drawings, and another 300 prints. He was equally skilled in oils, ink, etching, and the then new medium of lithography. Such an oeuvre, according to Muller, puts a mirror to Goya's own world: "the Bourbon Spain of Charles III and the reign of Charles IV, the Enlightenment, the French occupation, the turmoil of the Peninsular War, the despotic reign of Ferdinand VII (and the Inquisition), and Spain's few years of constitutional government." A man of many parts, Goya is not only an artist's artist, but also one of the most famous names in the world of art.

The Boy of Aragon

The future artist was born Francisco Jose Goya y Lucientes, in the small town of Fuendetodos, in the Spanish province of Aragon, on March 30, 1746. His father, Jose Goya, was a gilder, originally from the nearby town of Saragossa, and his mother, Gracia Lucientes, was of the minor Spanish nobility. It was only later in his life that Goya added the "de" before his name to belatedly recognize his family origins. The family moved to Saragossa when Goya was still young; there his father became a master guilder, a position that allowed him to see that his son received a good education under the more liberal Piarist fathers at the San Louis Academy. There Goya—who early on showed a proclivity for art—had his first training in art, as well as in the classics. As a twelve-year-old, the precocious youth produced two paintings for the church of Fuendetodos, works which were later destroyed. He continued his artistic apprenticeship at the studio of the painter Jose Luzan y Martinez. There he met the brothers Francisco and Roman Bayeu, who would later become his brothers-in-law as well as early sponsors of his work.

After several years of training with Luzan as well as with the painter Juan Ramirez, Goya went to Madrid for the first time, where he unsuccessfully competed twice—once in 1764 and again in 1766—for a place at the prestigious San Fernando Academy of Arts. Thereafter, he made a trip to Rome, studying firsthand the masters of the day. As these early years are rather sketchy for proven biographical data, legend and myth have surrounded Goya's youth: he supposedly fled Saragossa because of a mysterious crime of passion; in Madrid he was known as a brawler and womanizer; in Italy he worked his way to Rome as a bull fighter. Reality is less dramatic than such myths; by 1771 he submitted a work—listing himself as a pupil of Francisco Bayeu—to a competition at the Parma Accademia. The work, Victorious Hannibal Seeing Italy for the First Time from the Alps, came in second. Thereafter, Goya returned to Saragossa where he worked on his first important commission, a fresco (The Adoration of God's Name) for a basilica in the town. The resulting fresco, with its reminders of the baroque, set the young artist on his career, and soon other commissions came from churches and monasteries in his native province of Aragon.

Tapestries and Court Paintings

Goya married Josefa Bayeu, sister of Francisco Bayeu, in 1773. Thereafter, Bayeu, a director at the San Fernando Academy in Madrid, used his influence at court to help get his new brother-in-law a position at the Royal Tapestry Factory creating tapestry cartoons (thus named because they were painted on cartons or cardboard), illustrations that the weavers would follow to weave huge tapestries. On and off for almost the next two decades, Goya labored at these immense projects, completing over sixty of them by 1792. Included in these works were such famous paintings as The Parasol, The Wedding, and The Straw Manikin. Writing in his critical study Goya, Jose Gudiol noted that The Parasol "is perhaps the best of the cartoons," created in 1777. Gudiol praised the painting with its "ample contours" and sumptuous colors and lighting effects as a good demonstration of the artist's work for hire during these years. "Such paintings … illustrate the degree to which Goya could achieve success in themes he had no spontaneous feeling for, but nevertheless bent to his will," wrote Gudiol. Muller also noted Goya's "greater compositional invention and … increasing confidence in design and color in genre scenes" in his work for the tapestry factory.

Goya was also perfecting his art as an etcher during these same years, especially in a series inspired by the paintings of Diego Velasquez, whose work had a large influence on Goya's style. Named a court painter in 1779, Goya was appointed to the San Fernando Academy after submission of his painting Crucifixion. A possible falling out with his brother-in-law led to several years of very few commissions in the early 1780s, but by 1785 it seems all was well again between the two, for Goya then became a lieutenant director at the San Fernando Academy and four years later became the personal painter to King Charles IV. As such, he became one of the major portrait painters of Madrid, his work sought by the well to do and royalty. He also continued to produce religious subjects, which were increasingly commissioned not just by churches, but also rather by the nobles of Spain. Such was the case with the 1788 Saint Francis of Borgia Exorcising a Demonized Dying Man, commissioned by the Duchess of Osuna, and the first of Goya's canvases to feature one of the demons or monsters—it lurks behind the dying man—for which he later became so well known in his Black Paintings. Lighter in mood is The Duke and Duchess of Osuna with Their Children from the following year, a "splendid group portrait," according to Gudiol.

Reversal of Fortunes

Smithsonian contributor Robert Wernick observed that "Goya's life alternated between glorious hope and crushing disillusion." Never was that more true than in the winter of 1792 and 1793, at the height of his fame and wealth, while visiting in the south of Spain Goya fell deathly ill. He eventually and slowly recovered, but lost his hearing as a result. Biographers speculate on the nature of the illness, variously positing the possibility of syphilis or the effects of lead poisoning from the paints he used. He thereafter learned how to read lips, and was far from the embittered social outcast of legend. As Wernick observed, Goya "was more Sancho Panza than Don Quixote; he knew how to keep good terms with the world." His deafness did, however, seem to usher in a new period of more reflective art, artworks that poked and prodded at the hypocrisies of society, and at its absurdities. Paintings such as The Madhouse at Saragossa announce this new direction, as do the series of etchings in Los Caprichos (The Caprices), which appear to heap scorn on the government and society at large for all manner of evils, from corruption and greed to laziness and cruelty. Here he presents a weird world of witches, monsters, fantastic birds, and skeletons—macabre and frightening symbols which would, one and a half centuries later, be the staple elements of much of Surrealist painting. So biting were these engravings that Goya waited another six years when a more liberal regime was in power before he published them. One of the most famous of the etchings is number 43, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. Muller described Los Caprichos as a "masterfully executed series, satirizing the follies of contemporary Spanish society in terms that are universally understandable and applicable." According to Muller, the series brought Goya "international attention."

Meanwhile, Goya also continued his role as chief court painter, but left behind his work at the tapestry factory after 1792. He returned to full-scale portraiture with works such as The Duke and Duchess of Alba, and the portraits of the Duchess of Alba on her own. Apparently, Goya—whose wife was still very much alive—had an affair with the Duchess in 1796, and after the death of the Duke, thought he might even marry her, despite the slight difficulty of already being married himself. In any event, nothing came of the affair but several enigmatic paintings and a sense of rancor on Goya's part after it finished.

Other well-known portraits of the time include Ferdinand Guillemardet, a likeness of the French ambassador to Madrid. According to a contributor for the International Dictionary of Art and Artists, Goya "lavished special care in his characterization and execution" of this painting, aware that this would return to France and represent his work there. The same contributor drew attention to the fact that Goya's usual "somber palette is enlivened by the sitter's tricolor sash and plumed hat." Religious themes also continued in Goya's work during the 1790s, including paintings such as The Miracle of Saint Anthony of Padua and The Betrayal of Christ.

Goya ushered in the nineteenth century with paintings both high and low. His portrait of the royal family, The Family of Charles IV, dares to show the royals in less than a favorable light. There is the king, red-faced and pot-bellied, and the queen looking shrewish and domineering. "Goya's merciless characterization … affirmed his respect for truth and nature," according to Muller. Goya also depicted the wife of the powerful minister, Manuel Godoy, in the 1800 painting Portrait of the Countess of Chincon, a much different rendering than that given the royal family. Gudiol called this delicate and sensitive portrait "masterful." Goya also turned his hand to less than noble themes in 1800 with his two portraits of a courtesan, one very proper, The Clothed Maja, and the other rather salacious, The Maja Nude. Both portray the slyly beautiful courtesan reclining on a sofa. Though the latter piece caused a bit of scandal and later almost led to Goya's trial by the Inquisition, both were owned by Minister Godoy and became part of the decorations of his Madrid palace. The Maja Nude would inspire the Impressionists, including Manet's Olympia, a picture that shocked Paris just as Goya's did the Madrid of its day.

The Peninsular War

The years from 1800 to 1808 are something of a blank in Goya's life; he was rich enough to buy a very impressive home in 1803 and to marry off a son to an heiress two years later. With the advent of the French usurpation of the Spanish throne, however, and the subsequent War of Independence, Goya was in Saragossa, where he witnessed Aragonese resistance to the French firsthand. Initially seen as liberators and messengers of the Enlightenment, the French soon found themselves isolated on the Iberian Peninsula, fighting a bloody and unconventional war against insurgents who used knives and scythes instead of rifles. No quarter was given and there were atrocities on both sides in this struggle which gave the word "guerilla" to such warfare that spilled over into civilian life.

So influenced was Goya by the gruesome events he witnessed, that he created some of his most lasting images as a result. In addition to the etchings gathered in The Disasters of War, he also painted two memorable pictures, The Second of May and The Third of May. Both are painted, like so many later pictures by Goya, in thick, bold strokes of dark color punctuated by brilliant yellow and red highlights. The latter painting is universally recognized as one of Goya's most famous works. In it, a French firing squad is shooting resistance fighters at night and against a wall with the silhouette of a town in the background. Focus is placed on one of the victims, a man whose white shirt forms the center of the tableau, his arms outstretched—whether in supplication or in defiance is unclear. There is nothing heroic about this picture; the crimson of blood on the ground is the other bright color depicted. Forms are writhing, faces panicked. These are not martyrs, but victims, dying a miserable death, while the firing squad itself is seen mostly from the back, faceless killers going about their dreadful work as if they were machines. A contributor for the Economist (US), writing about Goya's war art, commented that "Goya reminds the viewer that war is essentially, and inescapably, about people doing horrific things to other people's bodies. If we gloat that things have not grown worse since the time of Goya, we might also note that they have not grown much better."

Goya also continued to paint grotesques in this period, including the 1811 Colossus, which depicts a giant trodding the earth with tiny humans scurrying below. There is something vaguely threatening and surreal in this picture which Wernick noted "can be interpreted in different ways." For Wernick, though, the meaning is clear: "The giant's eyes are closed, and in Goya closed eyes almost always represents ignorance, the mind closed to the purifying light of reason." In 1812, Goya's wife of several decades died, and by 1815, in declining health, his production had slowed somewhat, featuring two more series of etchings produced between 1813 and 1818: Los Proverbios, somewhat monstrous both in mood and in subject matter, and Tauromachia, which celebrates bull fighting.

In the House of the Deaf Man

With the restoration of the Spanish monarchy under the tyrannical Ferdinand VII in 1814, Goya felt less and less in tune with things in the capital. Ferdinand revived the Inquisition and restored feudal privileges, dismantling the reforms that the French had instituted. Goya made several portraits of the king between 1814 and 1820, but in truth, the two despised each other. Goya was a friend of the Enlightenment; Ferdinand VII despised and distrusted such liberal values.

In 1819, Goya bought a country house called Quinto del Sordo by the people of Madrid—the deaf man's house. There he retired with his housekeeper/lover, Leocadia (who was estranged from her husband), and her children—one of which, the daughter Rosario, was thought to be Goya's illegitimate child. He again fell deathly ill, suffered hallucinations, and, after recovering, set about painting the walls of two rooms of this home with a series of nightmare paintings inspired by his hallucinations, including Saturn Devouring His Son and The Witches' Sabbath. Called the Black Paintings, these frescoes present an often baffling interpretive challenge for art historians and psychologists alike.

As the political situation worsened in Spain with Ferdinand's repressive regime, Goya finally chose self-imposed exile to France. He requested and was granted permission to move, even though still collecting a salary as a court painter. Settling in Bordeaux with Leocadia and her children in 1824, the aged painter set about learning a new art form, the recently invented technique of lithography. Mastering this craft, Goya began work on a series of bull-fighting pictures, and he also completed a series of forty miniatures on ivory reminiscent of the style of Velasquez and Rembrandt. His last great portrait was The Milkwoman of Bordeaux, done while he was partially paralyzed and going blind. Gudiol called this one of Goya's "most eminent and representative canvases."

If you enjoy the works of Francisco Goya, you might want to check out the following:

The paintings of Diego Velasquez (1599-1660), considered one of Spain's greatest painters.

The paintings and etches of Rembrandt (1606-1669).

The paintings of Edouard Manet (1832-1883), considered the first modernist, perhaps even the father of impressionism.

Goya died of a stroke on April 16, 1828, leaving behind a huge assortment of paintings, etchings, and drawings. His fame in Spain had already begun to diminish somewhat by the end of his life; thereafter his repute was kept alive by various publications of his Caprichos. His influence abroad was first felt in France, with the Romantic painters, and much later early Impressionists such as Manet, whose Execution of Emperor Maximilian from 1867 hearkens back to The Third of May. Other artists were also influenced by Goya, including Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, and Vincent van Gogh, among others. Muller noted that Goya was appreciated in Spain as one of the last of the great masters, praised for his "inventiveness, daring, and individuality, his mastery of colour and chiaroscuro, of drawing and printmaking to create illusion, suspense and life-like truthfulness." However, he was also disparaged for what the academics found to be "his sketchiness, the lack of 'finish' or 'polish.'" Muller went on to note that critics felt such qualities demonstrated a "disregard for the rules of art, fine draughtsman-ship and technical refinement." The Impressionists, however, as well as later viewers, found and find this disregard for finish and detail a sign of modernity. "Having been heralded the last of Spain's Old Masters around 1830," concluded Muller, "in the 1890s he was heralded as revolutionary, free and modern; and he has since been considered the first 'modern' artist. Symbolist, Expressionist, Surrealist and contemporary artists have found inspiration in his work. In achieving the universal that he constantly sought to attain in his art, Goya created an oeuvre that can be appreciated by all people, in all times."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Blackburn, Julia, Old Man Goya, Pantheon (New York, NY), 2002.

Dictionary of Hispanic Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Ergas, G. Aimee, Artists: From Michelangelo to Maya Lin, Volume 1, UXL/Gale (Detroit, MI), 1995, pp. 152-157.

Gassier, Pierre, Goya, translated from the French by James Emmons, Skira (New York, NY), 1955.

Gassier, Pierre, The Drawings of Goya, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1975.

Gassier, Pierre, and Juliet Wilson, Vida y Obra de Francisco Goya, Editorial Juventud, S. A. (Madrid, Spain), 1974.

Gudiol, Jose, Goya: Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Abrams (New York, NY), 1985.

International Dictionary of Art and Artists, edited by James Vinson, St. James Press (Chicago, IL), 1990.

Klingender, F. D., Goya in the Democratic Tradition, Schocken Books (New York, NY), 1968.

Lewis, D. B. Wyndham, The World of Goya, C. N. Potter (New York, NY), 1968.

Licht, Fred, editor, Goya in Perspective, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1973.

Licht, Fred, Goya: The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1979.

Malraux, Andre, Saturn: An Essay on Goya, Phaidon (London, England), 1957.

Perez Sanchez, Alfonso E., and E. A. Sayre, Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment, Little, Brown and Company (Boston, MA), 1989.

Perez Sanchez, Alfonso E., Goya, translated from the French by Alexandra Campbell, Holt (New York, NY), 1990.

Sayre, E. A., editor, The Changing Image: Prints by Francisco Goya (exhibition catalog), Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA), 1974.

Symmons, Sarah, Goya, Phaidon Press (London, England), 1998.

Thomas, Hugh, Goya: The Third of May, Viking (New York, NY), 1973.

Vallentin, Antonia, Goya, Editions Albin Michel (Paris, France), 1951.

Williams, Gwyn A., Goya and the Impossible Revolution, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1976.


America, September 30, 1995, James S. Torrens, "Goya at the Met," p. 24.

American Artist, March, 2002, E. Lynne Moss, "Goya's Women," pp. 14-21.

Art Bulletin, December, 1998, Andrew Schulz, "The Expressive Body in Goya's Saint Francis Borgia at the Deathbed of an Impenitent," pp. 666-667.

Artforum International, January, 2001, Robert Rosenblum, "Dark Sleeper," p. 58.

Contemporary Review, June, 1994, Muriel Julius, "The Nightmare World of Francisco de Goya," pp. 311-314.

Economist (US), October 27, 1990, "What War Is," p. 98

New Criterion, June, 1999, Karen Wilkin, "Goya in Philadelphia," p. 44.

New Republic, May 15, 1989, Jonathan Brown, "The Unliberal Imagination: In Boston and New York, a Prettified Goya," pp. 30-35.

Smithsonian, January, 1989, Robert Wernick, "Out of Dark Dreams and Bright Hopes, the Blazing Art of Goya," pp. 56-67.

Time, May 27, 2002, Robert Hughes, "Goya's Women: Demonic Witches, Cheeky Majas, Blond Angels," p. 63.

USA Today, May, 1999, Matthew F. Singer, "Goya: First Painter to the Spanish Court," p. 42.


ArtCyclopedia,http://www.artcyclopedia.com/ (September 15, 2003), "Francisco Goya Online."

Grove Art Online,http://www.groveart.com/ (September 15, 2003), Priscilla E. Muller, "Goya (y Lucientes), Francisco (Jose) de."*