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Artists Francisco Goya

Francisco Goya

Spanish Painter and Printmaker

Francisco Goya Photo
Movement: Romanticism

Born: March 30, 1746 - Fuendetodos, Spain

Died: April 16, 1828 - Bordeaux, France

"Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels."

Francisco Goya Signature

Summary

Goya occupies a unique position within the history of Western art, and is often cited as both an Old Master and the first truly modern artist. His art embodies Romanticism's emphasis on subjectivity, imagination, and emotion, characteristics reflected most notably in his prints and later private paintings. At the same time, Goya was an astute observer of the world around him, and his art responded directly to the tumultuous events of his day, from the liberations of the Enlightenment, to the suppressions of the Inquisition, to the horrors of war following the Napoleonic invasion. Both for its inventiveness and its political engagement, Goya's art had an enormous impact on later modern artists. His unflinching scenes from the Peninsular War presaged the works of Pablo Picasso in the 20th century, while his exploration of bizarre and dreamlike subjects in the Caprichos laid the foundation for Surrealists like Salvador Dalí. Goya's influence extends to the 21st century, as contemporary artists have also drawn inspiration from the artist's grotesque imagery and searing social commentary.

Key Ideas

Goya's formal portraits of the Spanish Court are painted in a lavish virtuoso style, and highlight the wealth and power of the royal household. On the other hand, the works have been seen to contain veiled, even sly, criticisms of the ineffectual rulers and their circle.
Goya is one of the greatest printmakers of all time, and is famous for his achievements in etching and aquatint. He created four major print portfolios during his career: the Caprichos, Proverbios, Tauromaquia, and The Disasters of War. Perhaps even more than his paintings, these works reflect the artist's originality and his true opinions about the social and political events of his day. The subject matter of his etchings veers from dreamlike to grotesque, documentary to imaginary, and humorous to harshly satirical.
Women occupy a central place within Goya's oeuvre, and his images of majas (the stylish and outlandish members of Spain's lower classes in the 18th and 19th centuries), witches, and queens are some of his most daring and modern interpretations, depicting women in possession of their own powers, whether political or sexual. Many of these works have led to speculation about Goya's private life, for example his supposed affair with the Duchess of Alba.
Goya's late paintings are among the darkest and most mysterious of his creations. His series of 14 paintings from his farmhouse on the outskirts of Madrid (the so-called "Black Paintings") contain images of violence, despair, evil, and longing. They are the pessimistic expressions of an aging, deaf artist who was disillusioned with society and struggling with his own sanity. Their exploration of the dark forces at work in his own subconscious foreshadows the art of the Expressionists and Surrealists in the 20th century.
Detail of <i>The Third of May 1808</i> (completed in 1814) by Goya

To pass safely through the Spanish countryside occupied by the invading French army, Goya coated his works with a layer of whitewash, so that his depictions of the war’s atrocities could escape detection and be revealed later, as he believed, that art "is about one heart telling another heart where he found salvation."

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