Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (March 30, 1746 – April 16, 1828) was an Aragonese Spanish painter and printmaker. Goya was a court painter to the Spanish Crown and a chronicler of history. He has been regarded both as the last of the Old Masters and as the first of the moderns. The subversive and subjective element in his art, as well as his bold handling of paint, provided a model for the work of later generations of artists, notably Manet and Picasso.
He later moved to Madrid where he studied with Anton Raphael Mengs, a painter who was popular with Spanish royalty. He clashed with his master, and his examinations were unsatisfactory. Goya submitted entries for the Royal Academy of Fine Art in 1763 and 1766, but was denied entrance.
He then journeyed to Rome, where in 1771 he won second prize in a painting competition organized by the City of Parma. Later that year, he returned to Zaragoza and painted a part of the cupola of the Basilica of the Pillar, frescoes of the oratory of the cloisters of Aula Dei, and the frescoes of the Sobradiel Palace. He studied with Francisco Bayeu y Subías and his painting began to show signs of the delicate tonalities for which he became famous.
In 1783, the Count of Floridablanca, a favorite of King Carlos III, commissioned him to paint his portrait. He also became friends with Crown Prince Don Luis, and lived in his house. His circle of patrons grew to include the Duke and Duchess of Osuna, whom he painted, the King and other notable people of the kingdom.
After the death of Charles III in 1788 and revolution in France in 1789, during the reign of Charles IV, Goya reached his peak of popularity with royalty.
Goya received orders from many friends within the Spanish nobility. Among those from whom he procured portrait commissions were Pedro de Álcantara Téllez-Girón, 9th Duke of Osuna and his wife María Josefa de la Soledad, 9th Duchess of Osuna, María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva Alvarez de Toledo, 13th Duchess of Alba (universally known simply as the "Duchess of Alba"), and her husband José Alvarez de Toledo y Gonzaga, 13th Duke of Alba, and María Ana de Pontejos y Sandoval, Marchioness of Pontejos.
As French forces invaded Spain during the Peninsular War (1808–1814), the new Spanish court received him as had its predecessors.
King Ferdinand VII came back to Spain but relations with Goya were not cordial. In 1814 Goya was living with his housekeeper Doña Leocadia and her illegitimate daughter, Rosario Weiss; the young woman studied painting with Goya, who may have been her father. He continued to work incessantly on portraits, pictures of Santa Justa and Santa Rufina, lithographs, pictures of tauromachy, and more. With the idea of isolating himself, he bought a house near Manzanares, which was known as the Quinta del Sordo (roughly, "House of the Deaf Man", titled after its previous owner and not Goya himself). There he made the Black Paintings.
Goya left Spain in May 1824 for Bordeaux, where he settled, and Paris. He returned to Spain in 1826, but despite a warm welcome, he returned to Bordeaux in ill health where he died in 1828 at the age of 82.
The identity of the Majas is uncertain. The most popularly cited subjects are the Duchess of Alba, with whom Goya is thought to have had an affair, and the mistress of Manuel de Godoy, who subsequently owned the paintings. Neither theory has been verified, and it remains as likely that the paintings represent an idealized composite. In 1808 all Godoy's property was seized by Ferdinand VII after his fall from power and exile, and in 1813 the Inquisition confiscated both works as 'obscene', returning them in 1836.
This picture can be read as an indictment of the widespread punitive treatment of the insane, who were confined with criminals, put in iron manacles, and subjected to physical punishment. And this intention is to be taken into consideration since one of the essential goals of the enlightenment was to reform the prisons and asylums, a subject common in the writings of Voltaire and others. The condemnation of brutality towards prisoners (whether they were criminals or insane) was the subject of many of Goya’s later paintings.
As he completed this painting, Goya was himself undergoing a physical and mental breakdown. It was a few weeks after the French declaration of war on Spain, and Goya’s illness was developing. A contemporary reported, “the noises in his head and deafness aren’t improving, yet his vision is much better and he is back in control of his balance.” His symptoms may indicate a prolonged viral encephalitis or possibly a series of miniature strokes resulting from high blood pressure and affecting hearing and balance centers in the brain. Other postmortem diagnostic assessment points toward paranoid dementia due to unknown brain trauma (perhaps due to the unknown illness which he reported). If this is the case, from here on - we see an insidious assault of his faculties, manifesting as paranoid features in his paintings, culminating in his black paintings and especially Saturn Devouring His Sons.
In 1799 Goya published a series of 80 prints titled Caprichos depicting what he called
...the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance, or self-interest have made usual.
In The Third of May, 1808: The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid, Goya attempted to "perpetuate by the means of his brush the most notable and heroic actions of our glorious insurrection against the Tyrant of Europe The painting does not show an incident that Goya witnessed; rather it was meant as more abstract commentary.
This painting is one of 14 in a series known as the Black Paintings. After his death the wall paintings were transferred to canvas and remain some of the best examples of the later period of Goya's life when, deafened and driven half-mad by what was probably an encephalitis of some kind, he decided to free himself from painterly strictures of the time and paint whatever nightmarish visions came to him. Many of these works are in the Prado museum in Madrid.
In the 1810s, Goya created a set of aquatint prints titled Los desastres de la guerra) which depict scenes from the Peninsular War. The scenes are singularly disturbing, sometimes macabre in their depiction of battlefield horror, and represent an outraged conscience in the face of death and destruction. The prints were not published until 1863, 35 years after Goya's death.
Enrique Granados composed a piano suite (1911) and later an opera (1916), both called Goyescas, inspired by the artist's paintings. Gian Carlo Menotti wrote a biographical opera about him titled Goya (1986), commissioned by Plácido Domingo, who originated the role; this production has been presented on television. Goya also inspired Michael Nyman's opera Facing Goya (2000), and Goya is the central character in Clive Barker's play Colossus (1995).
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