1902 Encyclopedia > Francisco Goya

Francisco Goya
Spanish painter

FRANCISCO GOYA Y LUCIENTES (1746-1828), Spanish painter, was born in 1746 at Fuendetodos, a small Aragonese village near Saragossa. At an early age he commenced his artistic career under the direction of José Luzan Martinez, who had studied painting at Naples under Mastroleo. It is clear that the accuracy in drawing Luzan is said to have acquired by diligent study oi the best Italian masters did not much influence his erratic pupil. Goya, a true son of his province, was bold, capricious, headstrong, and obstinate. He took a prominent part on more than one occasion in those rival religious processions at Saragossa which often ended in unseemly frays; and his friends were led in consequence to despatch him in his nineteenth year to Madrid, where, prior to his departure for Rome, his mode of life appears to have been anything but that of a quiet orderly citizen. Being a good musician, and gifted with a voice, he sallied forth nightly, serenading the caged beauties of the capital, with whom he seems to, have been a very general favourite.

Lacking the necessary royal patronage, and probably scandalizing by his mode of life the sedate court officials, he, did not receive -- perhaps did not seek -- the usual honorarium accorded to those students who visited Rome for the purpose of study. Finding it convenient to retire for a time from Madrid, he decided to visit Rome at his own cost; and being without resources he joined a "quadrilla" of bull-fighters, passing from town to town until he reached the shores of the Mediterranean. We next hear of him reaching Rome, broken in health and financially bankrupt. In 1772 he was awarded the second prize in a competition initiated by the academy of Parma, styling himself "pupil to Bayen, painter to the king of Spain." Compelled to quit Rome somewhat suddenly, he appears. Again in Madrid in 1775, the husband of Bayeu’s daughter, and father of a son. About this time he appears to have visited his parents at Fuendetodos, no doubt noting much which later on he utilized in his genre works. On returning to Madrid he commenced painting canvasses for the tapestry factory of Santa Barbara, in which the king took much interest. Between 1776 and 1780 he appears to, have supplied thirty examples, receiving about £1200 for them. Soon after the revolution of 1868, an official was appointed to take an inventory of all works of art belonging to the nation, and in one of the cellars of the Madrid palace were discovered forty-three of these works of Goya on rolls forgotten and neglected (see Los Tapices de Goya; por Cruzado Villaamil, Madrid, 1870).

His originality and talent were soon recognized by Mengs, the king’s painter, and royal favour naturally followed. His career now becomes intimately connected with the court life of his time. He was commissioned by the king to design a series of frescos for the church of St Anthony of Florida, Madrid, and he also produced works for Saragossa, Valencia, and Toledo. Ecclesiastical art was not his forte, and although he cannot be said to have failed in any of his work, his fame was not enhanced by his religious subjects.

In portraiture, without doubt, Goya excelled: his portraits are evidently life-like and unexaggerated, and he disdained flattery. He worked rapidly, and during his long stay at Madrid painted, amongst many others, the portraits of four sovereigns of Spain -- Charles III. and IV., Ferdinand VII., and "King Joseph." The duke of Wellington also sat to him; but on his making some remark which raised the artist’s choler, Goya seized a plaster cast and hurled it at the head of the duke. There. are extant two pencil sketches of Wellington, one in the British Museum, the other in a private collection. One of his best portraits is that of the lovely Andalusian duchess of Alba. He now became the spoiled child of fortune, and acquired, at any rate externally, much of the polish of court manners. He still worked industriously upon his own lines, and, while there is a stiffness almost ungainly in the pose of some of his portraits, the stern individuality is always preserved.

The Third of May 1808 (Goya) image

The Executions of theThird of May 1808.
Oil on canvas.
Painted in 1814 by Francisco Goya

Including the designs for tapestry, Goya’s genre works are numerous and varied, both in style and feeling, from his Watteau-like Al Fresco Breakfast, Romeria de San Isidro, to the Curate feeding the Devil’s Lamp, the Meson del Gallo, and the painfully realistic Massacre of the Dos de Mayo (1808). Goya’s versatility is proverbial; in his hands the pencil, brush, and graver are equally powerful. Some of his crayon sketches of scenes in the bull ring are full of force and character, slight but full of meaning. He was in his thirty-second year when he commenced his etchings from Velasquez, whose influence may, however, be traced in his work at an earlier date. A careful examination of some of the drawings made for these etchings indicates a steadiness of purpose not usually discovered in Goya's craft as draughtsman. He is much more widely known by his etchings than his oils; the latter necessarily must be sought in public and private collections principally in Spain, while the former are known and prized in every capital of Europe. The etched collections by which Goya is best known include Los Caprichos [Caprices], which have a satirical meaning known only to the few; they are bold, weird, and full of force. Los Proverbios are also supposed to have some hidden intention. Los Desastres de la Guerra [The Disasters of War] may fairly claim to depict Spain during the French invasion. In the bull fight series, Goya is evidently at home; he was a skilled master of the barbarous art, and no doubt every sketch is true to nature, and from life.

Goya retired from Madrid, desiring probably during his latter years to escape the trying climate of that capital. He died at Bordeaux in his eighty-third year, and a monument has been erected there over his remains. Whether his influence produced the art of Fortuny and the modern Spanish school may be matter for discussion; but, from the deaths of Velasquez and Murillo to the advent of Fortuny Goya's name is the onlv important one found in the history of Spanish art.

Paul Lefort and Yriarte may be consulted for fuller details of his life and works.

See also: Spanish School of Painting.

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