José de Goya y Lucientes, known as Francisco de Goya, born on March 30, 1746 in Fuendetodos, near Zaragoza, and died on April 16, 1828 in Bordeaux, France, was a Spanish painter and engraver. His work includes easel paintings, murals, engravings and drawings. He introduced several stylistic breaks that initiated Romanticism and announced the beginning of contemporary painting. Goyesque art is considered a precursor to the pictorial avant-garde of the 20th century.
After a slow apprenticeship in his native land, bathed in the late Baroque style and pious images, he traveled to Italy in 1770, where he came into contact with neo-classicism, which he adopted when he moved to Madrid in the middle of the decade, along with a rococo style linked to his job as a tapestry designer for the Santa Barbara Royal Factory. His teaching, both in these activities and as painter of the House, was provided by Raphael Mengs, while the most renowned Spanish painter was Francisco Bayeu, Goya”s brother-in-law.
He contracted a serious illness in 1793 which brought him closer to more creative and original paintings, around less consensual themes than the models he had painted for the decoration of royal palaces. A series of paintings in tin, which he called “caprice and invention”, initiate the mature phase of the painter and the transition to the romantic aesthetic.
His work also reflects the vagaries of the history of his time, especially the upheavals of the Napoleonic wars in Spain. The series of prints The Disasters of War is almost a modern reportage of the atrocities committed and foregrounds a heroism where the victims are individuals who do not belong to a particular class or condition.
The fame of his work The Naked Maja is partly related to the controversies about the identity of the beautiful woman who served as his model. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, he also began to paint other portraits and thus paved the way for a new bourgeois art. At the end of the Franco-Spanish conflict, he painted two large canvases on the uprising of May 2, 1808, which set a precedent both aesthetically and thematically for historical paintings, which not only informs about the events experienced by the painter, but also launches a message of universal humanism.
His masterpiece is the series of oil paintings on dry wall that decorate his country house, the Black Paintings. With them, Goya anticipated contemporary painting and various avant-garde movements of the 20th century.
Youth and training (1746-1774)
Born in 1746 in a family of intermediate social rank, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes was the youngest of six children. Of his social condition, Nigel Glendinning says:
“He could move easily between the different social classes. His father”s family straddled the line between the people and the bourgeoisie. His paternal grandfather was a notary, with the social level that this implied. However, his great-grandfather and his father did not have the right to the mark “gift”: he was a gilder and a master craftsman. By following the career of a painter, Goya could look up. Moreover, on his mother”s side, the Lucientes had hidalgo ancestors, and soon he married Josefa Bayeu, daughter and sister of a painter.”
In the year of his birth, the Goya family had to move from Zaragoza to his mother”s village of Fuendetodos, some forty kilometers south of the city, while the family home was being remodeled. His father, José Goya, a master gilder from Engracia Lucientes, was a prestigious craftsman whose work relations contributed to Francisco”s artistic formation. The following year the family returned to Zaragoza, but the Goyas remained in contact with the future painter”s native town, as revealed by his older brother Thomas, who continued his father”s work, taking over the workshop in 1789.
When he was ten years old, Francisco began his primary studies, probably at the Pious School of Zaragoza. He turned to classical studies, after which he would eventually take over his father”s craft. His teacher was the father canon Pignatelli, son of the Count of Fuentes, one of the powerful families of Aragon that owned famous vineyards in Fuendetodos. He discovered his artistic gifts and directed him to his friend Martín Zapater, with whom Goya remained friends throughout his life. His family was facing economic difficulties that certainly forced the young Goya to help his father”s work. This may have been the reason for his late entry into José Luzán”s Academy of Drawing in Zaragoza, in 1759, after his thirteenth birthday, a late age according to the customs of the time.
José Luzán was also the son of a master gilder and a protégé of the Pignatellis. He was a modest, traditional Baroque painter whose preferences were religious subjects but who had an important collection of engravings. Goya studied there until 1763. Little is known about this period, except that the students drew extensively from life and copied Italian and French prints. Goya paid tribute to his master in his old age. According to Bozal, “There is nothing left. However, some religious paintings have been attributed to him. They are very marked by the Neapolitan late Baroque of his first master, especially in The Holy Family with Saint Joaquim and Saint Anne before the Eternal Glory, and were executed between 1760 and 1763 according to José Manuel Arnaiz. Goya seems to have been little stimulated by these recopies. He multiplied his female conquests as much as his fights, earning himself an unflattering reputation in a very conservative Spain marked by the Inquisition, despite the efforts of Charles III towards the Enlightenment.
It is possible that Goya”s artistic attention, like that of the rest of the city, was focused on a completely new work in Zaragoza. The renovation of the Basilica of the Pilar had begun in 1750, attracting many great names in architecture, sculpture and painting. The frescoes were painted in 1753 by Antonio González Velázquez. Roman-inspired, with beautiful rococo colors, the idealized beauty of the figures dissolved in luminous backgrounds was a novelty in the conservative and heavy atmosphere of the Aragonese city. As a master gilder, José Goya, probably assisted by his son, was in charge of supervising the work and his mission was probably an important one, although it remains poorly known.
In any case, Goya was a painter whose apprenticeship progressed slowly and his artistic maturity was relatively late. His painting was not very successful. It is not surprising that he did not win first prize in the third category painting competition called by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in 1763, for which the jury voted for Gregorio Ferro, without mentioning Goya. Three years later he tried again, this time in a first-class competition for a scholarship to study in Rome, but without any success. It is possible that the competition required a perfect drawing that the young Goya was not able to master.
This disappointment may have motivated his approach to the painter Francisco Bayeu. Bayeu was a distant relative of the Goyas, twelve years older, and like him a student of Luzan. He had been called to Madrid in 1763 by Raphael Mengs to collaborate in the decoration of the royal palace in Madrid, before returning to Zaragoza, giving a new artistic impulse to the city. In December 1764, a cousin of Bayeu married an aunt of Goya. It is very likely that the painter from Fuendetodos moved to the capital at this time, in order to find both a protector and a new master, as suggested by Goya”s presentation in Italy in 1770 as a disciple of Francisco Bayeu. Unlike Luzan,
“Goya never mentioned any debt of gratitude to Bayeu, who turned out to be one of the main architects of his training.
. There is no information about the young Francisco between this disappointment of 1766 and his trip to Italy in 1770.
After his two failed attempts to obtain a grant to study the Italian masters in situ, Goya left in 1767 with his own means to Rome – where he settled for a few months in 1770 -, Venice, Bologna and other Italian cities where he learned about the works of Guido Reni, Rubens, Veronese and Raphael, among other painters. Although this trip is not well documented, Goya brought back a very important notebook, the Italian Notebook, the first of a series of sketchbooks and annotations preserved mainly in the Prado Museum.
At the center of the European avant-garde, Goya discovered the baroque frescoes of Caravaggio and Pompeo Batoni, whose influence marked the Spanish painter”s portraits for a long time. Through the French Academy in Rome, Goya found work and discovered the neo-classical ideas of Johann Joachim Winckelmann.
In 1770, Goya participated in a painting competition in Parma on the imposed theme of historical scenes. Although he did not win the maximum distinction here either, he did receive, with 6 votes out of 15, a prize for his work, which did not adhere to the international artistic trend and was more personal and Spanish in its approach.
The painting sent, Hannibal Conqueror contemplates Italy for the first time from the Alps, shows how the Aragonese painter was able to emancipate himself from the conventions of the pious images learned with José Luzán and from the chromaticism of the late Baroque (dark and intense reds and blues, and orange glories as a representation of the religious supernatural) to adopt a more risky color scheme, inspired by classical models, with a palette of pastel tones, pinks, soft blues and pearl grays. With this work, Goya adopts the neoclassical aesthetic, resorting to mythology and to characters such as the Minotaur, which represents the sources of the Po River, or Victory with her laurels descending from the sky on the crew of Fortune.
In October 1771, Goya returned to Zaragoza, perhaps precipitated by his father”s illness or because he had received his first commission from the Pilar”s Board of Trustees to paint a mural for the vault of a chapel of the Virgin, a commission that was probably linked to the prestige he had acquired in Italy. He settled in Calle del Arco de la Nao and paid taxes as a craftsman, which suggests that he was self-employed at the time.
Goya”s activity during these years was intense. Like his father, he entered the service of the Canons of El Pilar and decorated the vault of the choir of the Basilica of El Pilar with a large fresco finished in 1772, The Adoration of the Name of God, a work that satisfied and aroused the admiration of the body in charge of the construction of the temple, as well as of Francisco Bayeu, who granted him the hand of his sister Josefa. Immediately afterwards, he began to paint murals for the chapel of the Palace of the Counts of Sobradiel, with a religious painting that was torn out in 1915 and whose pieces were dispersed, among others, to the Museum of Zaragoza. The part that covered the roof, entitled The Burial of Christ (Lazarro Galdiano Museum), is particularly notable.
But his most outstanding work is undoubtedly the set of paintings for the Aula Dei Carthusian monastery in Zaragoza, a monastery located about ten kilometers outside the city, which he was commissioned to do by Manuel Bayeu. It is made of large friezes painted in oil on the walls that relate the life of the Virgin from her forefathers (ignoring neoclassicism and baroque art and returning to the classicism of Nicolas Poussin, this fresco is described by Pérez Sánchez as “one of the most beautiful cycles of Spanish painting”. The intensity of activity increased until 1774. It is an example of Goya”s ability to produce this type of monumental painting, which he did with rounded forms and energetic brushstrokes. Although his remuneration was lower than that of his colleagues, only two years later he had to pay 400 reals of silver as an industry tax, an amount higher than that of his master José Luzán. Goya was then the most popular painter in Aragon.
In the meantime, on July 25, 1773, Goya married Josefa Bayeu, sister of two painters, Ramon and Francisco, who belonged to the King”s Chamber. Their first son, Eusebio Ramón, was born on August 29, 1774 and was baptized on December 15, 1775. At the end of that year, thanks to the influence of his brother-in-law Francisco, who introduced him to the court, Goya was appointed by Raphael Mengs to work at the court as a painter of tapestry cartoons. On January 3, 1775, after living between Zaragoza and the Bayeu”s home, 79 Calle del Reloj, he moved permanently to Madrid, where a new stage in his life began, during which his social status evolved from that of a simple craftsman to that of a royal painter, in spite of various occasional disappointments.
Goya in Madrid (1775-1792)
In July 1774, Raphael Mengs returned to Madrid where he directed the Royal Tapestry Factory. Under his leadership, production increased considerably. He sought the collaboration of Goya, who moved there the following year. Goya left full of ambition to settle in the capital, taking advantage of his membership in the Bayeu family.
At the end of 1775, Goya wrote his first letter to Martin Zapater, marking the beginning of a 24-year long correspondence with his childhood friend. It provides many insights into Goya”s personal life, his hopes, his difficulties in moving in an often hostile world, many details about his commissions and projects, but also about his personality and passions.
Francisco and Josefa lived on the second floor of a house called “de Liñan”, at 66 San Jerónimo Street, with their first son, Eusebio Ramón, and their second, Vicente Anastasio, who was baptized on January 22, 1777 in Madrid. Goya”s secular eye focused on the customs of social life, and in particular on its most suggestive aspect, the “majismo”. Very fashionable at the court at that time, it is the search for the noblest values of Spanish society through colorful costumes from the Madrid working classes, worn by young people – majos, majas – exalting dignity, sensuality and elegance.
The making of tapestries for the royal apartments was developed by the Bourbons and adjusted to the spirit of the Enlightenment. It was above all a question of setting up a company that produced quality goods in order to no longer depend on costly imports of French and Flemish products. From the reign of Charles III onwards, the subjects represented were mainly picturesque Hispanic motifs that were fashionable in the theater, with Ramón de la Cruz for example, or popular themes, such as those of Juan de la Cruz Cano y Olmedilla in the Collection of Ancient and Modern Spanish Costumes (1777-1788), which had been a great success.
Goya began with works that were minor for a painter, but important enough for him to be introduced into aristocratic circles. The first cartoons (1774-1775) were made from compositions supplied by Bayeu and did not show much imagination. The difficulty was to blend harmoniously the rococo of Giambattista Tiepolo and the neoclassicism of Raphael Mengs to obtain a style appropriate to the decoration of the royal apartments, where “good taste” and the observance of Spanish customs were to prevail. Goya was proud enough to apply for the position of painter to the king”s chamber, which the monarch refused after consulting Mengs, who recommended a talented and witty subject who could make much progress in art, supported by the royal munificence.
From 1776, Goya was able to get rid of Bayeu”s tutelage, and on October 30 he sent the king the invoice for The Taster on the banks of the Manzanares, stating that he had full authorship. The following year, Mengs left for Italy very ill, “without having dared to impose Goya”s nascent genius”. The same year Goya signed a masterly series of cartoons for the dining room of the princely couple, allowing him to discover the real Goya, still in the form of tapestries.
Although it was not yet full realism, it became necessary for Goya to move away from the late baroque of provincial religious painting, which was unsuitable for obtaining an impression of “au naturel”, requiring the picturesque. He also had to distance himself from the excessive rigidity of neoclassical academicism, which did not favor the narration and liveliness necessary for these settings of Spanish anecdotes and customs, with their popular or aristocratic protagonists, dressed in majos and majas, as can be seen in The Blind Hen (1789), for example. For such a genre to make an impression on the viewer, it must associate with the atmosphere, characters and landscapes of contemporary, everyday scenes in which he or she could have participated; at the same time, the point of view must be entertaining and arouse curiosity. Finally, while realism captures the individual traits of its models, the characters in genre scenes are representative of a stereotype, a collective character.
In the middle of the Enlightenment, the Count of Floridablanca was appointed on February 12, 1777 as Secretary of State. He was the leader of the “enlightened Spain”. In October 1798, he brought with him the jurist and philosopher Jovellanos. These two appointments had a profound influence on Goya”s rise and life. Adhering to the Enlightenment, the painter entered these Madrid circles. Jovellanos became his protector and he was able to establish relationships with many influential people.
Goya”s work for the Royal Tapestry Factory continued for twelve years. After his first five years, from 1775 to 1780, he interrupted his work and resumed it from 1786 to 1788 and again in 1791-1792, the year in which a serious illness rendered him deaf and took him away from this job permanently. He made seven series.
Made in 1775, it contains nine paintings of hunting theme made for the decoration of the dining room of the Prince and Princess of Asturias – the future Charles IV and Marie-Louise of Bourbon-Parme – at the Escorial.
This series is characterized by delineated contours, loose brushstrokes in pastel, static figures with rounded faces. The drawings, most of which are done in charcoal, also show the clear influence of Bayeu. The distribution is different from Goya”s other cartoons, where the figures are shown more freely and dispersed in space. It is more oriented to the needs of the weavers than to the artistic creativity of the painter. He uses the pyramidal composition, influenced by Mengs but reappropriated, as in Hunting with a Call, Dogs and Hunting Tools and The Hunting Party.
The painter frees himself completely from the hunting diversions previously imposed by his very influential brother-in-law and designs for the first time cartoons of his own imagination. This series also reveals a compromise with the weavers, with simple compositions, light colors and good luminosity that make it easier to weave.
For the dining room of the Prince and Princess of Asturias in the Pardo Palace, Goya resorts to the courtly taste and popular diversions of the time, who want to get closer to the people. The unacknowledged aristocrats want to be like the majos, to look and dress like them to participate in their parties. It is generally a question of rural leisure, justified by the location of the palace of the Pardo. For this reason, the location of the scenes near the river Manzanares is privileged.
The series begins with The Taste by the Manzanares River, inspired by the homonymous health book by Ramón de la Cruz. This is followed by Dancing on the Banks of the Manzanares, The Walk in Andalusia and what is probably the most successful work of this series: The Parasol, a painting that achieves a magnificent balance between the neoclassical pyramid-like composition and the chromatic effects typical of galant painting.
The success of the second series was such that he was commissioned to do a third, destined for the bedroom of the Prince and Princess of Asturias in the Pardo Palace. He continued with the popular themes, but now concentrated on those related to the fair of Madrid. The audiences between the painter and Prince Charles and Princess María Luisa in 1779 were fruitful in that they allowed Goya to continue his career at Court. Once on the throne, they would be strong protectors of the Aragonese.
The themes are varied. Seduction can be found in The Cenella Seller and The Military Man and Lady; childish candor in Children Playing Soldiers and Children on a Cart; popular scenes of the capital in The Madrid Fair, The Blind Man with a Guitar, The Majo with a Guitar and The Dish Merchant. The hidden meaning is present in several cartoons, including The Madrid Fair, which is a disguised criticism of the high society of the time.
This series is also a success. Goya took the opportunity to apply for the position of painter of the king”s chamber after Mengs” death, but he was refused. However, he definitely had the sympathy of the princely couple.
His palette adopts varied and earthy contrasts, the subtlety of which allows the most important characters in the painting to be highlighted. Goya”s technique is an evocation of Velázquez, whose portraits he had reproduced in his early etchings. The characters are more human and natural, and no longer attached to the rigid style of Baroque painting, nor to a budding neoclassicism, to make it a more eclectic painting.
The fourth series is intended for the anteroom of the apartment of the Prince and Princess of Asturias in the Pardo Palace. Several authors, such as Mena Marqués, Bozal and Glendinning, consider that the fourth series is the continuation of the third and that it was developed in the Pardo Palace. It contains The Novillada, in which many critics have seen a self-portrait of Goya in the young bullfighter looking at the spectator, The Madrid Fair, an illustration of a landscape from El rastro por la mañana (“The Morning Market”), another of Ramón de la Cruz”s wholesome, Ball Game with Racket and The Merchant of Dishes, in which he shows his mastery of the language of tapestry cardboard: varied but interrelated composition, several lines of force and different focuses, gathering of characters from different social spheres, tactile qualities in the still life of Valencian earthenware of the first term, dynamism of the carriage, blurring of the portrait of the lady from inside the carriage, and finally a full exploitation of all the means that this kind of painting can offer.
The location of the boxes and the meaning they have when viewed as a whole may have been a strategy devised by Goya to keep his clients, Charles and María Luisa, trapped by the seduction that was unfolding from one wall to the next. The colors of his paintings repeat the chromatic range of the previous series, but now evolve towards a better control of the backgrounds and faces.
At this time, Goya began to really distinguish himself from other court painters, who followed his example by treating popular mores in their cartoons, but did not achieve the same reputation.
In 1780, the production of tapestry is abruptly stopped. The war that the Crown maintained with England in order to recover Gibraltar caused serious damage to the economy of the kingdom and it became necessary to reduce superfluous expenses. Charles III temporarily closed the Royal Tapestry Factory and Goya began to work for private clients.
After a period (1780-1786) in which Goya began other works, such as fashion portraits of Madrid”s high society, the commission of a painting for the Basilica of San Francisco Granada in Madrid and the decoration of one of the domes of the Basilica of El Pilar, he resumed his work as an officer of the Royal Tapestry Factory in 1789 with a series devoted to the decoration of the dining room of the Palacio del Pardo. The cartoons of this series are Goya”s first work at court after he was appointed court painter in June 1786.
The decorative program begins with a group of four allegorical paintings for each of the seasons – including La nevada (winter), with grayish tones, verismo and the dynamism of the scene – and continues with other scenes of social significance, such as The Poor at the Fountain and The Wounded Mason.
In addition to the above-mentioned decorative works, he made several sketches in preparation for the paintings that were to decorate the chamber of the infantes, in the same palace. Among them, a masterpiece: The Meadow of Saint Isidore, which, as is usual with Goya, is bolder in the sketches and more “modern” (for its use of energetic, rapid, loose brushstrokes) in that it anticipates the painting of nineteenth-century impressionism. Goya wrote to Zapater that the themes of this series were difficult, gave him a lot of work, and that his central scene should have been The Meadow of Saint Isidore. In the field of topography, Goya had already displayed his mastery of Madrid”s architecture, which reappears here. The painter captures the two most important buildings of the time, the Royal Palace and the Basilica of St. Francis the Great.
But due to the unexpected death of King Charles III in 1788, this project was interrupted, while another sketch gave rise to one of his most famous cartoons: The Blind Hen.
On April 20, 1790, the painters of the Court receive a communiqué where it is written that “the king decided to determine the rural and comical themes as those that he wants represented on the tapestries”. Goya is part of this list of artists who will work to decorate the Escorial. However, being a painter of the king”s room, he refused at first to start a new series, considering it too much of a craft job. The king himself threatened the Aragonese artist with the suspension of his salary if he refused to collaborate. He complied, but the series remained unfinished after his trip to Andalusia in 1793 and the serious illness that made him deaf: only seven cartoons out of twelve were completed.
The paintings in the series are Las Gigantillas, a comical children”s game that alludes to the change of ministers; The Stilts, an allegory of the harshness of life; The Wedding, an acerbic criticism of arranged marriages; The Swing, which takes up the theme of social ascensions; The Jug Girls, a painting that has been interpreted in various ways, as an allegory of the four ages of man, or on majas and matchmakers, Boys Climbing a Tree, a composition of foreshortened representations that is reminiscent of Boys Picking Fruit from the second series, and The Pantin, Goya”s last tapestry cartoon, which symbolizes the implicit domination of women over men, with obvious carnivalesque overtones of an atrocious game where women enjoy manipulating a man.
This series is generally considered the most ironic and critical of society at the time. Goya was influenced by political themes – being contemporary with the rise of the French Revolution. In Las Gigantillas, for example, the children going up and down are an expression of disguised sarcasm of the volatile situation of the government and the incessant change of ministers. This criticism developed later, especially in his graphic work, the first example of which is the Caprices series. In these cartoons, faces already appear that foreshadow the caricatures of his later work, as in the monkey-like face of the fiancé in The Wedding.
From the moment he arrived in Madrid to work at the Court, Goya had access to the royal painting collections. During the second half of the 1770s he took Velázquez as a reference. The master”s painting had been praised by Jovellanos in a speech at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in San Fernando, where he praised the naturalism of the Sevillian against the excessive idealization of neoclassicism and the proponents of an Ideal Beauty.
In Velázquez”s painting, Jovellanos appreciated the invention, the pictorial techniques – the images composed of paint spots that he described as “magical effects” – and the defense of a tradition of his own that, according to him, did not have to be ashamed of the French, Flemish or Italian traditions, which were then dominant in the Iberian Peninsula. Goya may have wanted to echo this Spanish trend of thought and, in 1778, he published a series of etchings that reproduced paintings by Velázquez. The collection, which was very well received, arrived at a time when Spanish society was demanding more accessible reproductions of royal paintings. These prints were praised by Antonio Ponz in the eighth volume of his Viaje de España, published the same year.
Goya respects the ingenious light strokes of Velázquez, the aerial perspective and the naturalistic drawing, as in his portrait of Carlos III cazador (“Charles III the hunter”, circa 1788), whose wrinkled face recalls that of the mature men of the first Velázquez. During these years, Goya won the admiration of his superiors, especially that of Mengs, “who was captivated by the ease with which he did his work. His social and professional rise was rapid, and in 1780 he was named Academician of Merit of the Academy of San Fernando. On this occasion, he painted a crucified Christ of eclectic workmanship, in which his mastery of anatomy, dramatic light and intermediate tones, is a tribute to both Mengs (who also painted a crucified Christ) and Velázquez, with his crucified Christ.
During the 1780s, he came into contact with Madrid”s high society, which demanded to be immortalized by his brushes, turning himself into a fashionable portraitist. His friendships with Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos and Juan Agustín Ceán Bermúdez, an art historian, were decisive for his introduction to the Spanish cultural elite. Thanks to them, he received numerous commissions, such as the one for the Saint Charles Bank in Madrid, which had just opened in 1782, and the Calatrava College in Salamanca.
One of the decisive influences was his relationship with the small court that the infant Don Luis Antonio de Bourbon had created in Arenas de San Pedro with the musician Luigi Boccherini and other personalities of Spanish culture. Don Luis had renounced all his inheritance rights to marry an Aragonese woman, María Teresa de Vallabriga, whose secretary and valet had family ties to the Bayeu brothers: Francisco, Manuel and Ramón. From this circle of acquaintances we have several portraits of the Infanta María Teresa (including an equestrian portrait) and, above all, The Family of the Infante Don Luis de Bourbon (1784), one of the most complex and finished paintings of this period.
At the same time, José Moñino y Redondo, Count of Floridablanca, was appointed head of the Spanish government. The latter, who held Goya”s painting in high esteem, entrusted him with several of his most important commissions: two portraits of the Prime Minister – notably the 1783 portrait The Count of Floridablanca and Goya – which, in a mise en abyme, shows the painter showing the minister the picture he was painting.
Goya”s most decisive support, however, came from the Duke of Osuna, whose family he portrayed in the famous painting The Family of the Duke of Osuna, and especially the Duchess María Josefa Pimentel y Téllez-Girón, a cultured woman active in Madrid”s Enlightenment-inspired intellectual circles. At that time, the Osuna family decorated their suite in the Capricho Park and commissioned Goya to paint a series of picturesque paintings that resembled the models he had made for the royal tapestries. These, delivered in 1788, nevertheless show many important differences with the cartoons of the Factory. The dimensions of the characters are smaller, bringing out the theatrical and rococo side of the landscape. Nature acquires a sublime character, as required by the aesthetics of the time. But above all, we note the introduction of various scenes of violence or disgrace, such as in The Fall, where a woman has just fallen from a tree without us knowing anything about her injuries, or in The Attack on the Stagecoach, where a character on the left has just been shot at point-blank range, while the occupants of the carriage are being robbed by the bandits. In other paintings, Goya continues to renew his themes. This is the case with The Driving of a Plow, where he depicts the physical labor of poor workers. This preoccupation with the working class is as much a precursor to Romanticism as it is a sign of Goya”s frequentation of Enlightenment circles.
Goya quickly gained prestige and his social ascension was consequent. In 1785, he was appointed Deputy Director of Painting at the San Fernando Academy. On June 25, 1786, Francisco de Goya was appointed painter to the king of Spain before receiving a new commission to make tapestries for the royal dining room and the bedroom of the infantes at the Prado. This task, which kept him busy until 1792, gave him the opportunity to introduce certain features of social satire (evident in The Pantin or The Wedding) which were already in sharp contrast to the gallant or self-indulgent scenes of the cartoons produced in the 1770s.
In 1788, the arrival in power of Charles IV and his wife Maria Lucia, for whom the painter had been working since 1775, strengthened Goya”s position at court, making him the “Painter of the King”s Chamber” from the following year, which gave him the right to paint the official portraits of the royal family and the corresponding income. Thus, Goya indulged in a new luxury, between cars and country outings, as he told his friend Martin Zapater several times.
However, the royal concern about the French Revolution of 1789, of which Goya and his friends shared certain ideas, caused the disgrace of the Ilustrados in 1790: Francisco Cabarrus was arrested, Jovellanos was forced into exile, and Goya was temporarily kept away from the Court.
At the beginning of 1778, Goya hoped to receive confirmation of an important commission to decorate the dome of the Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, which the organization in charge of the building”s construction wanted to order from Francisco Bayeu, who in turn proposed it to Goya and his brother Ramón Bayeu. The decoration of the Regina Martirum dome and its pendentives gave the artist the hope of becoming a great painter, which his work on the tapestries did not guarantee.
In 1780, the year in which he was appointed Academician, he made a trip to Zaragoza to complete the fresco under the direction of his brother-in-law, Francisco Bayeu. However, after a year of work, the result did not satisfy the building authority, which suggested that Bayeu correct the frescoes before agreeing to continue with the pendants. Goya did not accept the criticism and objected to any third party interfering with his recently completed work. Finally, in mid-1781, the Aragonese painter, very bruised, returned to court, but not without sending a letter to Martin Zapater “reminding me of Zaragoza, where the painting burned me alive.” The resentment lasted until 1789, when, thanks to Bayeu”s intercession, Goya was appointed Painter of the King”s Chamber. His father died at the end of that year.
Shortly afterwards, Goya, along with the best painters of the time, was asked to produce one of the paintings that was to decorate the Basilica of Saint Francis the Great. He seized this opportunity to compete with the best craftsmen of the time. After some tension with the elder Bayeu, Goya described in detail the evolution of this work in a correspondence with Martin Zapater, in which he tried to demonstrate that his work was better than that of his highly respected competitor who had been commissioned to paint the main altar. In particular, a letter sent to Madrid on January 11, 1783, recounts this episode. In it, Goya recounts how he learned that Charles IV, then Prince of Asturias, had spoken of his brother-in-law”s painting in these terms:
“What happened to Bayeu was the following: after presenting his painting to the palace and saying to the King well, well, well as usual; afterwards the Prince and the Infants saw it and from what they said, there is nothing in favor of the said Bayeu, if not against, and it is known that nothing pleased these Lords. Don Juan de Villanueba, his Architect, came to the palace and asked the Prince, how do you like this painting? He answered: Good, sir. You are an idiot,” the prince answered, “this painting has no chiaroscuro, no effect whatsoever, is very small and has no merit. Tell Bayeu that he is an idiot. It was told to me by six or seven teachers and two friends of Villanueba to whom he told it, although it was done in front of people to whom it could not be hidden.”
– Apud Bozal (2005)
Goya is referring here to the painting San Bernardino de Siena preaching before Alfonso V of Aragon, completed in 1783, at the same time as he worked on the family portrait of the infant Don Luis, and in the same year on The Count of Floridablanca and Goya, works that were at the peak of pictorial art at the time. With these canvases, Goya was no longer a simple painter of cartoons; he dominated all genres: religious painting, with Christ Crucified and San Bernardino Predicando, and court painting, with portraits of the Madrid aristocracy and the royal family.
Until 1787, he left religious themes aside, and when he did so, it was by order of Charles III for the Royal Monastery of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne of Valladolid: La muerte de san José (“The Death of Saint Joseph”), Santa Ludgarda (“Saint Lutgarde”) and San Bernardo socorriendo a un pobre (“Saint Bernard helping a poor man”). In these canvases, the volumes and the quality of the folds of the white garments pay homage to Zurbarán”s painting with sobriety and austerity.
Commissioned by the Dukes of Osuna, his great protectors and patrons during that decade along with Luis-Antoine de Bourbon, the following year he painted pictures for the chapel of the Cathedral of Valencia, where we can still contemplate St. Francis of Borgia and the impenitent moribund and Despedida de san Francisco de Borja de su familia.
The decade of the 1790s (1793-1799)
In 1792, Goya made a speech to the Academy, in which he expressed his ideas on artistic creation, which moved away from the pseudo-idealists and neoclassical precepts in force at the time of Mengs, to affirm the need for freedom of the painter, who should not be subject to narrow rules. According to him, “oppression, the slavish obligation to make everyone study and follow the same path is an obstacle for young people who practice such a difficult art.” It is a true declaration of principles in the service of originality, the desire to give free rein to invention, and a plea of a particularly pre-romantic character.
At this stage, and especially after his illness in 1793, Goya did his best to create works that were far removed from the obligations of his responsibilities at court. He painted more and more small paintings in complete freedom and distanced himself as much as possible from his commitments, claiming difficulties due to his delicate health. He will no longer paint tapestry cartoons – an activity that represented little work for him – and will resign from his academic commitments as master of painting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1797, claiming physical problems, while being named honorary Academician.
At the end of 1792, Goya was lodged in Cadiz by the industrialist Sebastián Martínez y Pérez (of whom he painted an excellent portrait), in order to recover from an illness: probably lead poisoning, which is a progressive intoxication by lead that is quite common among painters. In January 1793, Goya was bedridden in a serious condition: he remained temporarily and partially paralyzed for several months. His condition improved in March, but left him deaf, from which he never recovered. Nothing is known about him until 1794, when the painter sends a series of “cabinet” paintings to the San Fernando Academy:
“To occupy the imagination mortified at the time of considering my ills, and to compensate in part for the great waste they have occasioned, I set about painting a set of cabinet pictures, and I realized that in general there is no room, with commissions, for caprice and invention”
– Carta de Goya to Bernardo de Iriarte (vice-protector of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando), January 4, 1794.
The paintings in question are a set of 14 small-format works painted on tin; eight of them are about bullfighting (six of which take place in the bullring), while the other six are on various themes, categorized by himself as “national diversions” (“Diversiones nacionales”). Among them are several obvious examples of Lo Sublime Terrible: The Enclosure of Fools, El naufragio, El incendio, fuego de noche, Asalto de ladrones and Interior de prisión. His themes are terrifying and the pictorial technique is sketchy and full of bright contrasts and dynamism. These works can be considered as the beginning of romantic painting.
Although the impact of the disease on Goya”s style was significant, this was not his first attempt at these themes, as was the case with The Attack on the Stagecoach (1787). There are, however, notable differences: in the latter, the landscape is peaceful, luminous, rococo style, with pastel colors of blue and green; the figures are small and the bodies are arranged in the lower left corner, far from the center of the painting – in contrast to Asalto de ladrones (the corpses appear in the foreground and the converging lines of the rifles direct the gaze to a survivor begging to be spared.
This series of paintings includes, as previously mentioned, a set of bullfighting motifs in which more importance is given to works that predate bullfighting than to contemporary illustrations of this theme, such as those by authors like Antonio Carnicero Mancio. In his actions, Goya emphasizes the moments of danger and courage and highlights the representation of the public as an anonymous mass, characteristic of the reception of entertainment shows in today”s society. The presence of death is particularly present in the works of 1793, such as the mounts in Suerte de matar and the capture of a rider in Death of the Picador, which definitively distance these themes from the picturesque and rococo.
This set of works on tin plates is completed by Des acteurs comiques ambulants, a representation of a company of commedia dell”arte actors. In the foreground, at the edge of the stage, grotesque figures hold a sign with the inscription “ALEG. MEN.” which associates the scene with the alegoría menandrea (“allegory of Menander”), in consonance with the naturalistic works of the Commedia dell”arte and with satire (Menander being a classical Greek playwright of satirical and moralist plays). The expression alegoría menandrea is frequently used as a subtitle of the work. Through these ridiculous characters, the caricature and representation of the grotesque appears, in one of the clearest precedents of what will become common in his later satirical images: deformed faces, puppet characters and exaggeration of physical features. On an elevated stage surrounded by an anonymous audience, Harlequin, who juggles at the edge of the stage, and a dwarf Polichinelle in military garb and drunken, play to convey the instability of the love triangle between Columbine, Pierrot and Pantalon. The latter wears a Phrygian cap of the French revolutionaries alongside an aristocrat of operetta dressed in the fashion of the Old Regime. Behind them, a nose emerges from between the background curtains.
In 1795, Goya obtained from the Academy of Fine Arts the position of Director of Painting, which had become vacant with the death of his brother-in-law Francisco Bayeu that year, as well as that of Ramón, who had died a short time earlier and who could have claimed the position. On the other hand, he asked Manuel Godoy for the position of First Painter of the King”s Chamber with his father-in-law”s salary, but he was not granted it until 1789.
Goya”s eyesight seems to be deteriorating, with a probable cataract, the effects of which are particularly evident in the unfinished portrait of James Galos (1826), of Mariano Goya (the artist”s grandson, painted in 1827) and then of Pío de Molina (1827-1828).
From 1794 onwards, Goya resumed his portraits of the Madrid nobility and other notable personalities of the society of his time, which now included, thanks to his status as First Painter of the House, representations of the royal family, of which he had already made the first portraits in 1789: Charles IV in red, Carlos IV de cuerpo entero (“Carlos IV in full”) or María Luisa de Parma con tontillo (“Maria Luisa of Parma with a funny man”). His technique evolved, the psychological features of the face became more precise and he used an illusionist technique for the fabrics, based on spots of paint that allowed him to reproduce gold and silver embroidery and fabrics of various types from a distance.
In the Portrait of Sebastian Martinez (1793), a delicacy emerges, with which he graduated the tones of the silk jacket of the high Gaditan character. At the same time, he worked on his face with care, capturing all the nobility of the character of his protector and friend. At this time he made many portraits of very high quality: The Marquise of Solana (1795), both of the Duchess of Alba, in white (1795) and then in black (1797), that of her husband, (Portrait of the Duke of Alba, 1795), The Countess of Chinchón (1800), effigies of bullfighters like Pedro Romero (1795-1798), actresses like “La Tirana” (1799), political figures such as Francisco de Saavedra y Sangronis, and literary figures, among which the portraits of Juan Meléndez Valdés (1797), Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos (1798) and Leandro Fernández de Moratín (1799) are particularly noteworthy.
In these works, the influences of English portraiture are notable, and he emphasized its psychological depth and naturalness of attitude. The importance of showing medals, objects, symbols of the subjects” attributes of rank or power, gradually diminishes to favor the representation of their human qualities.
The evolution that the male portrait experienced can be observed by comparing the portrait of the Count of Floridablanca (1783) with the portrait of Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, (1798). The portrait of Charles III presiding over the scene, the attitude of a grateful subject of the painter who has made a self-portrait, the luxurious clothes and attributes of power of the minister and even the excessive size of his figure, contrast with the melancholic gesture of his colleague Jovellanos. Without a wig, reclining and even distressed by the difficulty of carrying out the reforms he planned, and located in a more comfortable and intimate space: this last painting clearly shows the path taken all these years.
Regarding the female portraits, it is worth commenting on the relationship with the Duchess of Alba. From 1794, he went to the palace of the Dukes of Alba in Madrid to paint their portraits. He also did some cabinet paintings with scenes of her daily life, such as The Duchess of Alba and the Bigot, and after the death of the duke in 1795, he made long stays with the young widow in her estate in Sanlúcar de Barrameda in 1796 and 1797. The hypothetical love affair between them has given rise to an abundant literature based on inconclusive evidence. There have been great debates about the meaning of the fragment of one of the letters that Goya sent to Martín Zapater on August 2, 1794, in which, with his peculiar spelling, he writes:
To this should be added the drawings in Album A (also called Cuaderno pequeño de Sanlúcar), in which María Teresa Cayetana appears with private attitudes that bring out her sensuality, and the 1797 portrait in which the duchess -who wears two rings with the inscriptions “Goya” and “Alba”, respectively- shows an inscription on the floor that advocates “Solo Goya” (“Only Goya”). All this leads us to believe that the painter must have felt a certain attraction for Cayetana, known for her independence and capricious behavior.
However, Manuela Mena Marqués, relying on correspondence from the Duchess in which we see her very affected by the death of her husband, denies any liaison between them, be it amorous, sensual or platonic. Goya would have made only courtesy visits. She also argues that the most controversial paintings – the nudes, the Portrait of the Duchess of Alba of 1797, part of the Caprichos – would in fact be dated 1794 and not 1797-1798, which would place them before that famous summer of 1796 and especially before the death of the Duke of Alba.
In any case, the full-body portraits made of the Duchess of Alba are of great quality. The first one was made before she was widowed and she appears fully dressed in the French fashion, with a delicate white suit that contrasts with the bright red of the ribbon she wears at her belt. Her gesture shows an extroverted personality, in contrast to her husband, who is depicted reclining and showing a withdrawn character. It is not for nothing that she loved opera and was very worldly, a “petimetra a lo último” (“an absolute pussycat”), according to the Countess of Yebes, while he was pious and loved chamber music. In the second portrait of the duchess, she is dressed in Spanish mourning and poses in a serene landscape.
Although Goya published engravings from 1771 onwards – notably Huida a Egipto (“Flight to Egypt”), which he signed as creator and engraver -, published a series of prints after paintings by Velázquez in 1778, as well as some other non-series works in 1778-1780, The impact of the image and the chiaroscuro motivated by the sharpness of El Agarrotado (“The Garroted”), it was with the Caprichos (“The Caprices”), whose sale was announced in the Madrid newspaper Diario de Madrid on February 6, 1799, that Goya inaugurated the romantic and contemporary engraving of a satirical nature.
It is the first realization of a series of Spanish caricature prints, in the manner of what was done in England and France, but with a high quality in the use of etching and aquatint techniques – with touches of burin, burnishing and drypoint – and an original and innovative theme: the Caprichos cannot be interpreted in only one way, contrary to the conventional satyric print.
Etching was the usual technique of the 18th century painter-engravers, but the combination with aquatint allows him to create shaded shadow areas through the use of resins of different textures; with these, a gradation in the scale of grays is obtained that allows to create a dramatic and disturbing illumination inherited from the work of Rembrandt.
With these “capricious subjects” – as Leandro Fernández de Moratín, who most probably wrote the preface of the edition, called them – full of invention, there was the will to spread the ideology of the intellectual minority of the Enlightenment, which included a more or less explicit anticlericalism. It is necessary to take into account that the pictorial ideas of these prints develop from 1796 with antecedents present in the Cuaderno pequeño de Sanlúcar (or Album A) and in the Álbum de Sanlúcar-Madrid (or Album B).
While Goya creates the Caprichos, the Enlightenment finally occupies positions of power. Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos is from November 11, 1797 to August 16, 1798 the most authoritative person in Spain, accepting the position of Minister of Grace and Justice. Francisco de Saavedra, a friend of the Minister and of his advanced ideas, became Secretary of the Treasury in 1797 and then Secretary of State from March 30 to October 22, 1798. The period in which these images were produced was conducive to the search for usefulness in the criticism of the universal and particular vices of Spain, although from 1799 a reactionary movement would force Goya to withdraw the prints from sale and offer them to the king in 1803
On the other hand, Glendinning states, in a chapter entitled La feliz renovación de las ideas (“The joyful renovation of ideas”):
“A political approach would make perfect sense for these satyrs in 1797. At that time, the painter”s friends enjoyed Godoy”s protection and had access to power. In November, Jovellanos was appointed Minister of Grace and Justice, and a group of his friends, among them Simón de Viegas and Vargas Ponce, worked on the reform of public education. A new legislative vision was at the heart of the work of Jovellanos and his friends, and according to Godoy himself, it was a matter of carrying out little by little the “essential reforms that the progress of the century demanded”. The nobility and fine arts would have their role in this process, preparing “the arrival of a joyful renovation when ideas and morals would be ripe.” The appearance of the Caprichos at that time would take advantage of the existing “freedom of speech and writing” to contribute to the spirit of reform and could count on the moral support of several ministers. It is not strange that Goya thought of publishing the work by subscription and waited for one of the court bookstores to take care of the sale and advertising.”
– Nigel Glendinning. Francisco de Goya (1993)
The most emblematic engraving of the Caprichos – and probably of all of Goya”s graphic work – is what was originally intended to be the frontispiece of the work before serving, in its definitive publication, as the hinge between the first part devoted to the criticism of morals and a second part more oriented to the study of witchcraft and the night: Capricho no. 43: The sleep of reason produces monsters. Since his first sketch in 1797, entitled in the upper margin “Sueño no 1” (“Dream no 1″), the author is represented as dreaming, and from the dream world emerges a nightmare vision, with his own face repeated alongside horses” hooves, ghostly heads and bats. In the final print, the legend on the front of the table where the dreamer leans, who enters the world of monsters once the world of lights is extinguished, has remained.
Before the end of the eighteenth century, Goya painted three more series of small paintings that emphasize the theme of mystery, witchcraft, night and even cruelty, and can be related to the first paintings of Capricho e invención, painted after his illness in 1793.
First, there are two paintings commissioned by the Dukes of Osuna for their estate in the Alameda, which were inspired by the theater of the time. These are El convidado de piedra – currently unobtainable; it is inspired by a passage in Antonio de Zamora”s version of Don Juan: No hay plazo que no se cumpla ni deuda que no se pague (“There are no deadlines that are not met or debts that are not paid”) – and The Devil”s Lamp, a scene from El hechizado por fuerza (“The Enchanted One by Force”), which recreates a moment from Antonio de Zamora”s homonymous drama in which a superstitious pusillanimous man tries to keep his oil lamp from being extinguished, believing that if he doesn”t, he will die. Both paintings were done between 1797 and 1798 and represent theatrical scenes characterized by the presence of the fear of death, which is personified by a terrifying and supernatural being.
Other paintings whose theme is witchcraft complete the decoration of the Capricho”s quintet – La cocina de los brujos (“The kitchen of the witches”), The Flight of the Witches, El conjuro (“The Fate”) and above all The Sabbath of the Witches, in which aged and deformed women situated around a large goat, the image of the demon, offer him living children as food; a melancholic sky – that is to say, a nocturnal and lunar sky – lights up the scene.
This tone is maintained throughout the series, which was probably intended as an illustrated satire of popular superstitions. These works do not, however, avoid exerting a typically pre-romantic attraction to the subjects noted by Edmund Burke in Philosophical Investigation into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1756) regarding the painting Lo Sublime Terrible.
It is difficult to determine whether these paintings with witchcraft themes have a satyric intention, such as the ridicule of false superstitions, in line with those declared with Los Caprichos and the ideology of the Enlightenment, or if on the contrary they respond to the aim of transmitting disquieting emotions, products of evil spells, spells and a gloomy and terrifying atmosphere, which would be typical of the later stages. Unlike the prints, there is no guiding motto here, and the paintings maintain an ambiguity of interpretation, which is not exclusive, however, of this theme. His approach to the bullfighting world does not give us sufficient clues to be decisive for a critical vision or for that of the enthusiast of bullfighting that he was, according to his own epistolary testimonies.
Another series of paintings that relate a contemporary crime – which he calls Crimen del Castillo (“Crime of the Castle”) – offers greater contrasts of light and shadow. Francisco del Castillo (whose last name could be translated as “of the Castle”, hence the name chosen) was murdered by his wife María Vicenta and her lover and cousin Santiago Sanjuán. Later they were arrested and tried in a trial that became famous for the eloquence of the prosecution (in favor of Juan Meléndez Valdés, a poet of the Enlightenment from the entourage of Jovellanos and a friend of Goya), before being executed on April 23, 1798 in the Plaza Mayor of Madrid. The artist, in the manner of the aleluyas told by the blind, accompanied by vignettes, recreates the homicide in two paintings entitled La visita del fraile (“The Visit of the Monk”), also known as El Crimen del Castillo I (“The Crime of the Castle I”), and Interior de prisión (“Interior of the Prison”), also known as El Crimen del Castillo II (“The Crime of the Castle II”), both of which were painted in 1800. In the latter, the theme of the prison appears, which, like the insane asylum, was a constant motif in Goya”s art and allowed him to express the most sordid and irrational aspects of the human being, thus beginning a path that would culminate in the Black Paintings.
Around 1807, he returned to this way of telling the story of various events by means of aleluyas with the recreation of the story of Brother Pedro de Zaldivia and the Maragato Bandit in six tableaux or vignettes.
Around 1797, Goya worked in mural decoration with paintings on the life of Christ for the Oratory of the Holy Grotto in Cadiz. In these paintings he moves away from the usual iconography to present passages such as La multiplicación de los panes y los peces (“The multiplication of the loaves and fishes”) and the Última Cena (“The Last Supper”) from a more human perspective. He also worked on another commission, from the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Toledo, for the sacristy of which he painted The Arrest of Christ in 1798. This work is a tribute to El Expolio by El Greco in its composition, as well as to the focused illumination of Rembrandt.
The frescoes in the church of San Antonio de la Florida in Madrid, probably commissioned by his friends Jovellanos, Saavedra and Ceán Bermúdez, represent the masterpiece of his mural painting. Goya was able to feel protected and thus free in the choice of his ideas and technique: he took advantage of this to introduce several innovations. From a thematic point of view, he placed the representation of the Glory in the semi-dome of the apse of this small church and reserved the complete dome for the Miracle of St. Anthony of Padua, whose characters come from the humblest layers of society. It is therefore innovative to place the figures of the divinity in a space lower than that reserved for the miracle, especially since the protagonist is a monk dressed humbly and is surrounded by beggars, blind people, workers and hooligans. Bringing the celestial world closer to the eyes of the people is probably the consequence of the revolutionary ideas that the Enlightenment had towards religion.
Goya”s prodigious mastery of impressionistic painting lies above all in his firm and rapid execution technique, with energetic brushstrokes that emphasize light and sparkle. He resolves the volumes with vigorous strokes proper to the sketch; yet, from the distance from which the spectator contemplates them, they acquire a remarkable consistency.
The composition has a frieze of figures spread over the double arches in trompe l”oeil, while the highlighting of the groups and protagonists is done by means of higher areas, such as that of the saint himself or of the character who, in front, raises his arms to heaven. There is no statism: all the figures are related in a dynamic way. A child perches on the double arch; the shroud leans on it like a sheet that dries, stretched in the sun. The landscape of the Madrid mountains, close to the costumbrismo (painting of manners) of the cartoons, constitutes the background of the whole dome.
The turn of the 19th century
In 1800, Goya was commissioned to do a large painting of the royal family: The Family of Charles IV. Following the precedent of Velázquez”s Meninas, Goya has the family posed in a palace room, with the painter on the left painting a large canvas in a dark space. However, the depth of the Velázquezian space is truncated by a wall near the figures, where two paintings with undefined motifs are displayed. The play of perspective disappears in favor of a simple pose. We do not know which picture the artist is painting, and although it was thought that the family was posing in front of a mirror that Goya is contemplating, there is no evidence for this hypothesis. Instead, the light illuminates the group directly, implying that there should be a light source in the foreground, such as a window or skylight, so the light from a mirror should blur the image. This is not the case, as the reflections that Goya”s impressionistic touch applies to the clothes give a perfect illusion of the quality of the details of the clothes, fabrics and jewelry.
Far from the official representations – the characters dressed in gala costumes, but without symbols of power – the priority is to give an idea of education based on tenderness and active participation of parents, which was not common in the high nobility. The Infanta Isabel holds her son very close to her breast, evoking breastfeeding; Charles of Bourbon embraces his brother Ferdinand in a gesture of gentleness. The atmosphere is relaxed, as well as its placid and bourgeois interior.
He also painted a portrait of Manuel Godoy, the most powerful man in Spain after the king. In 1794, Goya had painted a small equestrian sketch of him while he was Duke of Alcudia. In 1801, he is depicted at the height of his power after his victory in the War of the Oranges – as indicated by the presence of the Portuguese flag – and then as Generalissimo of the Army and “Prince of Peace”, pompous titles obtained during the war against Napoleonic France.
The Portrait of Manuel Godoy shows a decisive orientation towards psychology. He is portrayed as an arrogant military man resting after a battle, in a relaxed position, surrounded by horses and with a phallic staff between his legs. He does not exude any sympathy; to this interpretation is added Goya”s support for the Prince of Asturias, who later reigned as Ferdinand VII of Spain and who opposed the king”s favorite.
It is generally considered that Goya consciously degraded the images of the representatives of political conservatism that he painted. However, Glendinning relativizes this view. Undoubtedly, his best clients are favored in his paintings, which is why he was so successful as a portraitist. He always succeeded in bringing his models to life, something that was very much appreciated at the time, and he succeeded precisely in the royal portraits, an exercise that nevertheless obliged him to preserve the pomp and dignity of the figures.
During these years, he produced probably his best portraits. He did not only deal with the high aristocracy, but also with a variety of characters from finance and industry. His portraits of women are the most remarkable. They show a decisive personality and the paintings are far from the images of whole bodies in an artificially beautiful rococo landscape typical of that time.
Examples of the presence of bourgeois values can be found in his Portrait of Tomás Pérez de Estala (a textile entrepreneur), that of Bartolomé Sureda – an industrialist of ceramic kilns – and his wife Teresa, that of Francisca Sabasa García, of the Marchioness of Villafranca or of the Marchioness of Santa Cruz – neoclassic in the Empire style – known for her literary tastes. Above all, there is the beautiful bust of Isabelle Porcel, which prefigures the romantic and bourgeois portraits of the following decades. Painted around 1805, the attributes of power associated with the characters are reduced to a minimum, in favor of a human and close presence, from which the natural qualities of the models stand out. The sashes, insignia and medals even disappeared in the aristocratic portraits where they had been represented until then.
In the Portrait of the Marquise of Villafranca, the protagonist is shown painting a picture of her husband. The attitude in which Goya represents her is an acknowledgement of the intellectual and creative abilities of the woman.
Porcel”s Portrait of Isabella impresses with a strong gesture of character that has never been portrayed in a woman”s portrait – except perhaps that of the Duchess of Alba. However, here the lady does not belong to the Spanish grandees or even to the nobility. The dynamism, despite the difficulty imposed by a mid-body portrait, is fully achieved thanks to the movement of the trunk and shoulders, the face oriented in the opposite direction of the body, the gaze directed to the side of the painting, the position of the arms, firm and in a jar. The chromaticism is already that of the black paintings. The beauty and the aplomb with which this new model of woman is represented relegates to the past the feminine stereotypes of the previous centuries.
It is worth mentioning other portraits from these years, such as that of María de la Soledad Vicenta Solís, Countess of Fernán Núñez and her husband, both from 1803. The María Gabriela Palafox y Portocarrero, Marquise of Lazán (ca. 1804, collection of the Dukes of Alba), dressed in Napoleonic fashion, very sensual, the Portrait of the Marquis of San Adrián, an intellectual and theater enthusiast and friend of Leandro Fernández de Moratín, with a romantic pose, and that of his wife, the actress María de la Soledad, Marquise of Santiago.
Finally, he also made portraits of architects, including that of Juan de Villanueva (1800-1805) where Goya captures with great realism a fleeting movement.
La Maja desnuda (The Naked Maja), commissioned between 1790 and 1800, formed a couple with La Maja vestida (The Clothed Maja), dated between 1802 and 1805, probably commissioned by Manuel Godoy for his private cabinet. The earlier date of La Maja desnuda proves that there was no original intention to make a couple.
In both paintings, a beautiful woman is depicted in full, lying on a sofa, looking at the viewer. This is not a mythological nude, but a real woman, contemporary of Goya, then called “the gypsy”. The body is probably inspired by the Duchess of Alba. The painter had already painted several female nudes in his Sanlúcar album and in the Madrid album, probably taking advantage of the intimacy of the posing sessions with Cayetana to study her anatomy. The features of this painting coincide with those of the model in the albums: the slender waist and the spread breasts. However, the face seems to be an idealization, almost an invention: the face is not that of any known woman of the time, although it has been suggested that it was that of Godoy”s lover, Pepita Tudó.
Many have suggested that the woman depicted could be the Duchess of Alba because when Cayetana died in 1802, all her paintings became the property of Godoy, who owned both majas. The general had other nudes, such as the Venus in the Mirror by Velázquez. However, there is no definitive proof, neither that this face belonged to the duchess, nor that La Maja desnuda could have come into Godoy”s hands by another means, such as from a direct commission to Goya.
Much of the fame of these works is due to the controversy they have always generated, both regarding the author of the initial commission and the identity of the person painted. In 1845, Louis Viardot published in Les Musées d”Espagne that the person depicted was the Duchess, and from this information the critical discussion has not ceased to raise this possibility. In 1959, Joaquín Ezquerra del Bayo states in La Duquesa de Alba y Goya, based on the similarity of posture and dimensions of the two majas, that they were arranged in such a way that, by means of an ingenious mechanism, the clothed maja covers the naked maja with an erotic toy from Godoy”s most secret cabinet. It is known that the Duke of Osuna, in the 19th century, used this process in a painting that, by means of a spring, let another one of a nude see. The painting remained hidden until 1910.
As it is an erotic nude that has no iconographic justification, the painting earned Goya a trial by the Inquisition in 1815, from which he was absolved thanks to the influence of a powerful unidentified friend.
From a purely plastic point of view, the quality of the rendering of the skin and the chromatic richness of the canvases are the most remarkable aspects. The composition is neoclassical, which does not help much to establish a precise dating.
In any case, the numerous enigmas that concern these works have turned them into an object of permanent attention.
In relation to these themes, we can situate several scenes of extreme violence, which the 1993-1994 Prado Museum exhibition called “Goya, caprice and invention”. They are dated to 1798-1800, although Glendinning prefers to place them between 1800 and 1814, both for stylistic reasons – the blurred brush technique, the reduction of light on the faces, the silhouetted figures – and because of their themes – especially their relationship with the Disasters of War.
These are scenes of rape, cold-blooded or point-blank murder, or cannibalism: Bandits shooting their prisoners (or Bandit Assault I), Bandit undressing a woman (Bandit Assault II), Bandit murdering a woman (Bandit Assault III), Cannibals preparing their victims and Cannibals contemplating human remains.
In all these paintings, horrific crimes are perpetrated in dark caves, which very often contrast with the radiant and blinding white light, which could symbolize the annihilation of a space of freedom.
The landscape is inhospitable, deserted. The interiors are nondescript, and it is unclear whether they are hospice rooms or caves. The context, unclear – infectious diseases, robberies, murders, rapes of women – does not allow us to know if these are the consequences of a war or of the very nature of the characters depicted. In any case, they live on the bangs of society, have no defense against vexations and remain frustrated, as was the custom in the novels and engravings of the time.
The disasters of war (1808-1814)
The period between 1808 and 1814 was dominated by the turbulence of history. As a result of the Aranjuez uprising, Charles IV was forced to abdicate and Godoy to give up power. The uprising of May 2 marked the beginning of the Spanish War of Independence against the French occupiers.
Goya never lost his title of painter of the House, but he never ceased to be preoccupied because of his relations with the Enlightenment afrancesados. However, his political commitment could not be determined with the information available today. It seems that he never displayed his ideas, at least publicly. While on the one hand many of his friends openly sided with the French monarch, on the other hand he continued to paint many royal portraits of Ferdinand VII upon his return to the throne.
His most decisive contribution in the field of ideas is his denunciation of the Disasters of War, a series in which he paints the terrible social consequences of any armed confrontation and the horrors caused by wars, in all places and at all times by the civilian population, regardless of the political results and the belligerents.
This period also saw the appearance of the first Spanish Constitution, and consequently, the first liberal government, which signaled the end of the Inquisition and the structures of the Old Regime.
Little is known of Goya”s personal life during these years. His wife Josefa died in 1812. After his widowhood, Goya maintained a relationship with Leocadia Weiss, separated from her husband – Isidoro Weiss – in 1811, with whom he lived until his death. From this relationship he may have had a daughter, Rosario Weiss, but her paternity is disputed.
The other certain element concerning Goya at this time is his trip to Zaragoza in October 1808, after the first siege of Zaragoza, at the request of José de Palafox y Melzi, general of the contingent that resisted the Napoleonic siege. The rout of the Spanish troops in the Battle of Tudela at the end of November 1808 forced Goya to leave for Fuendetodos and then Renales (Guadalajara), and to spend the end of the year and the beginning of 1809 in Piedrahíta (Ávila). It was probably there that he painted the portrait of Juan Martín Díez, who was in Alcántara (Cáceres). In May, Goya returned to Madrid, following Joseph Bonaparte”s decree that court officials should return to their posts or face dismissal. José Camón Aznar points out that the architecture and landscapes of some of the prints in Disasters of War evoke scenes seen in Zaragoza and Aragon during this trip.
Goya”s situation at the time of the Restoration was delicate: he had painted portraits of revolutionary French generals and politicians, including even King Joseph Bonaparte. Although he could claim that Bonaparte had ordered that all royal officials be placed at his disposal, Goya began to paint in 1814 what must be considered patriotic pictures in order to gain the sympathy of Ferdinand”s regime. A good example is Retrato ecuestre del general Palafox (“Equestrian Portrait of General Palafox”, 1814, Madrid, Prado Museum), the notes of which were probably taken during his trip to the Aragonese capital, or portraits of Ferdinand VII himself. Although this period was not as prolific as the previous one, his production remained abundant, both in paintings, drawings and prints, the main series of which was The Disasters of War, published much later. This year 1814 also saw the execution of his most ambitious oil paintings about the war: Dos de mayo and Tres de Mayo.
Godoy”s program for the first decade of the 19th century retained its Enlightenment-inspired reformist aspects, as shown in the paintings he commissioned from Goya, which featured allegories to progress (Allegory to Industry, Agriculture, Commerce and Science – the latter having disappeared – between 1804 and 1806) and decorated waiting rooms in the prime minister”s residence. The first of these paintings is an example of the backwardness of Spain in industrial design. More than the working class, it is a Velasquezian reference to the Spinners that shows a productive model close to the craft. For this palace, two other allegorical canvases are produced: Poetry, and Truth, Time and History, which illustrate the Enlightenment”s conception of the values of written culture as a source of progress.
The Allegory of the City of Madrid (1810) is a good example of the transformations that this type of painting underwent as a result of the rapid political developments of the period. In the oval to the right of the portrait was Joseph Bonaparte at the beginning, and the female composition that symbolizes the city of Madrid did not seem subordinate to the King, who is a little further back. The latter reflected the constitutional order, where the city swears loyalty to the monarch – symbolized by the dog at his feet – without being subordinated to him. In 1812, with the first flight of the French from Madrid in the face of the advancing English army, the oval was masked with the word “constitution”, an allusion to the 1812 constitution, but the return of Joseph Bonaparte in November forced the return of his portrait. His definitive departure resulted in the return of the word “constitution”, and in 1823, with the end of the liberal triennium, Vicente López painted the portrait of King Ferdinand VII. Finally, in 1843, the royal figure was replaced by the text “The Book of the Constitution” and later by “Dos de mayo”, two May, a text that still appears in the book.
Two genre scenes are kept in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. They represent people at work. They are The Water Carrier and The Remover, dated between 1808 and 1812. They are initially considered to be part of the prints and works for the tapestries, and therefore dated to the 1790s. Later, they are linked to wartime activities where anonymous patriots were sharpening knives and providing logistical support. Without reaching this last, somewhat extreme interpretation – nothing in these paintings suggests war, and they have been catalogued outside the series of “horrors of war” in Josefa Bayeu”s inventory – we note the nobility with which the working class is represented. The water carrier is seen from a low angle, which contributes to enhancing her figure, like a monument of classical iconography.
The Forge (1812 – 1816), is painted largely with a spatula and quick brushstrokes. The lighting creates a chiaroscuro and the movement is very dynamic. The three men could represent the three ages of life, working together in defense of the nation during the Revolutionary War. The painting appears to have been produced on the painter”s own initiative.
Goya also painted a series of paintings on literary themes such as the Lazarillo de Tormes; scenes of morality such as Maja and Celestine on the Balcony and Majas on the Balcony; or definitively satyrical, such as The Old – an allegory on the hypocrisy of the elderly -, The Young, (also known as Reading a Letter). In these paintings, Goya”s technique is accomplished, with spaced out color strokes and a firm line. He depicts a variety of themes, from the marginalized to social satire. In these last two paintings appears the taste – then new – for a new naturalist verism in the line of Murillo, which moves definitively away from the idealist prescriptions of Mengs. During a trip of the kings to Andalusia in 1796, they acquired for the royal collections an oil painting by the Sevillian The Young Beggar, in which a beggar is getting married.
The Old Men is an allegory of Time, a character represented by an old man about to give a broom to an old woman, who looks at herself in a mirror reflecting a cadaverous image. On the back of the mirror, the text “Qué tal? (“How are you doing?”) works like the bubble of a contemporary comic strip. In the painting The Young, sold together with the previous one, the painter insists on the social inequalities, not only between the protagonist, who is only preoccupied with her love affairs, and her servant, who protects her with an umbrella, but also with the washerwomen in the background, kneeling and exposed to the sun. Some of the plates in “Album E” shed light on these observations of morals and on the ideas of social reform specific to this period. This is the case of the plates “Useful work”, where the washerwomen appear, and “This poor woman takes advantage of the time”, where a poor woman locks up the passing time in the barn. Around 1807, he painted a series of six tableaux of manners that narrate a story in the manner of the aleluyas: Brother Pedro de Zaldivia and the Maragato Bandit.
In the inventory made in 1812 upon the death of his wife Josefa Bayeu, there were twelve still lifes. These include Still Life with Ribs and Lamb”s Head (Paris, Louvre Museum), Still Life with Dead Turkey (Madrid, Prado Museum) and Plucked Turkey and Stove (Munich, Alte Pinakothek). They are later than 1808 for their style and because, due to the war, Goya no longer received many commissions, which allowed him to explore genres that he had not yet had the opportunity to work on.
These still lifes depart from the Spanish tradition of Juan Sánchez Cotán and Juan van der Hamen, whose main representative in the eighteenth century was Luis Eugenio Meléndez. All of them had presented transcendental still lifes, which showed the essence of objects spared by time, as they would ideally be. Goya, on the other hand, focuses on the passing of time, decay and death. His turkeys are inert, the lamb”s eyes are glassy, the flesh is not fresh. What interests Goya is to represent the passage of time on nature, and instead of isolating objects and representing them in their immanence, he makes us contemplate the accidents and vagaries of time on objects, far from both the mysticism and the symbolism of the Vanities of Antonio de Pereda and Juan de Valdés Leal.
Using as a pretext the marriage of his only son, Javier Goya (all his other children having died in infancy), to Gumersinda Goicoechea y Galarza in 1805, Goya painted six miniature portraits of the members of his in-laws. A year later, Mariano Goya was born of this union. The bourgeois image offered by these family portraits shows the changes in Spanish society between the early works and the first decade of the 19th century. A pencil portrait of doña Josefa Bayeu is also preserved from the same year. She is drawn in profile, the features are very precise and define her personality. Realism is emphasized, anticipating the characteristics of the later Bordeaux albums.
During the war, Goya”s activity diminished, but he continued to paint portraits of the nobility, friends, soldiers and notable intellectuals. The trip to Zaragoza in 1808 was probably the source of the portraits of Juan Martín, the Stubborn (1809), the equestrian portrait of José de Rebolledo Palafox y Melci, which he completed in 1814, and the engravings of The Disasters of War.
He also painted portraits of French soldiers – portrait of General Nicolas Philippe Guye, 1810, Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts – English -Portrait of the Duke of Wellington, National Gallery of London – and Spanish – El Empecinado, very dignified in a cavalry captain uniform.
He also worked with intellectual friends, such as Juan Antonio Llorente (ca. 1810 – 1812, Sao Paulo Museum of Art), who published a “Critical History of the Spanish Inquisition” in Paris in 1818, commissioned by Joseph Bonaparte, who decorated him with the Royal Order of Spain – a new order created by the monarch – and whose portrait in oil by Goya is decorated. He also painted the portrait of Manuel Silvela, author of a Selective Library of Spanish Literature and a Compendium of Ancient History until the Augustan times. He was an afrancesado, friend of Goya and Moratín, exiled in France from 1813. In this portrait, painted between 1809 and 1812, he is painted with great austerity, with a sober garment on a black background. The light illuminates his clothing and the character”s attitude shows us his confidence, security and personal gifts, without the need for symbolic ornaments, characteristic of the modern portrait.
After the restoration of 1814, Goya painted various portraits of the “desired” Ferdinand VII – Goya was always the first painter of the House – such as the Equestrian Portrait of Ferdinand VII exhibited at the Academy of San Fernando and various full-body portraits, such as the one painted for the Santander Town Hall. In the latter, the King is represented under a figure that symbolizes Spain, hierarchically positioned above the king. In the background, a lion is breaking chains, by which Goya seems to say that sovereignty belongs to the nation.
The Manufacture of Powder and Manufacture of Bullets in the Sierra de Tardienta (both dated between 1810 and 1814, Madrid, Royal Palace) are allusions, as indicated by inscriptions on the back, to the activity of the shoemaker José Mallén de Almudévar, who between 1810 and 1813 organized a guerrilla group that operated some fifty kilometers north of Zaragoza.The small-format paintings try to represent one of the most important activities in the war. The civil resistance to the invader was a collective effort and this protagonist, like all the people, stands out in the composition. Women and men are busy making ammunition, hidden between the branches of the trees where the blue sky filters through. The landscape is already more romantic than rococo.
The Disasters of War is a series of 82 engravings made between 1810 and 1815 that illustrate the horrors of the Spanish War of Independence.
Between October 1808 and 1810, Goya drew preparatory sketches (preserved in the Prado Museum), which he used to engrave the plates, without major modifications, between 1810 (the year in which the first ones appeared) and 1815. During the painter”s lifetime, two complete sets of engravings were printed, one of which was given to his friend and art critic Ceán Bermúdez, but they remained unpublished. The first edition arrived in 1863, published on the initiative of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando.
The technique used is etching supplemented by dry and wet pointing. Goya hardly used etching, which is the technique most used in the Caprichos, probably because of the precariousness of the means he had at his disposal, the entire series of “disasters” having been executed in wartime.
An example of the composition and form of this series is engraving number 30, which Goya entitled “Ravages of War” and which is considered a precedent to the painting Guernica because of the chaotic composition, the mutilation of the bodies, the fragmentation of objects and beings scattered over the engraving, the severed hand of one of the corpses, the dismemberment of the bodies, and the figure of the dead child with an upside down head, which reminds us of the one held up by his mother in Picasso.
The engraving evokes the bombardment of an urban civilian population, probably in their homes, because of the shells that the French artillery used against the Spanish resistance of the siege of Zaragoza. After José Camón Aznar:
“Goya travels the Aragonese land overflowing with blood and visions of the dead. And his pencil did not do more than transcribe the macabre spectacles that he had in his sight and the direct suggestions that he collected during this journey. Only in Zaragoza could he contemplate the effects of the shells that fell and destroyed the floors of the houses, precipitating its inhabitants, as in the plate 30 “ravages of the war” “
– José Camón Aznar
At the end of the war, in 1814, Goya began the execution of two large historical paintings whose origins can be traced back to the Spanish successes of May 2 and 3, 1808 in Madrid. He explained his intention in a letter to the government in which he indicated his desire to
“to perpetuate by the brushes the most important and heroic actions or scenes of our glorious insurrection against the tyrant of Europe”
The paintings -Two May 1808 and Three May 1808- are very different in size from the usual paintings of this genre. He did not make the protagonist a hero, although he could have taken as his subject one of the leaders of the Madrid insurrection, such as Daoíz and Velarde, in a parallel with the neoclassical paintings of David Bonaparte crossing the Great St. Bernard (1801). In Goya”s work the protagonist is an anonymous collective of people reaching extreme violence and brutality. In this sense, his paintings are an original vision. He differs from his contemporaries who illustrated the May Day uprising, such as Tomás López Enguídanos, published in 1813, and republished by José Ribelles and Alejandro Blanco the following year. These kinds of representations were very popular and had become part of the collective imagination when Goya proposed his paintings.
Where other representations clearly identify the place of the fighting – the Puerta del Sol – in The Charge of the Mamelukes, Goya attenuates the references to dates and places, reduced to vague urban references. He gains universality and focuses on the violence of the subject: a bloody and shapeless confrontation, without distinction of camps or flags. At the same time, the scale of the characters increases as the engravings progress in order to concentrate on the absurdity of the violence, to reduce the distance with the spectator who is caught in the combat like a passer-by surprised by the battle.
The painting is a typical example of the organic composition typical of Romanticism, where the lines of force are given by the movement of the characters, guided by the necessities of the theme and not by an external geometry imposed a priori by the perspective. In this case, the movement goes from left to right, men and horses are cut off by the edges of the frame on each side, like a photograph taken on the spot.Both the chromaticism and the dynamism and composition anticipate the characteristics of French Romantic painting; an aesthetic parallel can be drawn between Goya”s Two May and Delacroix”s Death of Sardanapalus.
Les Fusillés du 3 mai contrasts the group of prisoners about to be executed with that of the soldiers. In the first, the faces are recognizable and illuminated by a large fire, a main character stands out by opening his arms in a cross, dressed in white and yellow radiating, recalling the iconography of Christ – we see the stigmata on his hands. The anonymous firing squad is transformed into a dehumanized war machine where individuals no longer exist.
The night, the unvarnished drama, the reality of the massacre, are represented in a grandiose dimension. Moreover, the dead man in the foreground prolongs the cross arms of the protagonist, and draws a guiding line that goes towards the outside of the frame, towards the spectator who feels involved in the scene. The dark night, a legacy of the aesthetics of the Sublime Terrible, gives a gloomy tone to the events, where there are no heroes, only victims: those of the repression and those of the platoon.
In The Shootings of May 3, there is no distancing, no emphasis on military values such as honor, nor even any historical interpretation that would distance the viewer from the scene: the brutal injustice of the death of men at the hands of other men.This is one of the most important and influential paintings in Goya”s body of work, reflecting, more than any other, his modern perspective on the understanding of an armed confrontation.
The Restoration (1815 – 1819)
The return from exile of Ferdinand VII, however, was to sound the death knell for the projects of a constitutional and liberal monarchy to which Goya had subscribed. Although he retained his position as First Painter of the House, Goya was alarmed by the absolutist reaction, which became even more pronounced after the crushing of the liberals by the French expeditionary force in 1823. The period of the absolutist Restoration of Ferdinand VII led to the persecution of liberals and afrancesados, among whom Goya had his main friends. Juan Meléndez Valdés and Leandro Fernández de Moratín were forced to go into exile in France because of the repression. Goya found himself in a difficult situation because he had served Joseph I, because he belonged to the circle of the Enlightenment and because of the trial initiated against him in March 1815 by the Inquisition for his “maja desnuda”, which it considered “obscene”, but the painter was finally absolved.
This political panorama forced Goya to reduce his official commissions to patriotic paintings of the “May Day Uprising” type and to portraits of Ferdinand VII. Two of these (Ferdinand VII with a royal coat and in the field), both from 1814, are kept in the Prado Museum.
It is likely that, with the restoration of the absolutist regime, Goya spent a large part of his assets to cope with the shortages of the war. This is how he expresses it in epistolary exchanges from this period. However, after the completion of these royal portraits and other commissions paid for by the Church at that time – notably Saints Just and Rufina (1817) for the Cathedral of Seville – in 1819 he had enough money to buy his new property of the “Deaf Man”s House”, to have it restored, to add a waterwheel, vineyards and a fence.
The other large official painting – more than four meters wide – is The Junta of the Philippines (Goya Museum, Castres), commissioned in 1815 by José Luis Munárriz, director of this institution, and painted by Goya at the same time.
However, in private, he did not reduce his activity as a painter and engraver. At that time he continued to produce small format paintings, of caprices, around his usual obsessions. The paintings are increasingly distant from previous pictorial conventions, for example: the Corrida de toros, the Procession of the Penitents, Tribunal of the Inquisition, The Madhouse. The Burial of the Sardine, which deals with the Carnival, is noteworthy.
These oils on wood are of similar dimensions (45 to 46 cm x 62 to 73, except for The Burial of the Sardine, 82.5 x 62) and are kept in the museum of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in San Fernando.The series comes from the collection acquired by the steward of the city of Madrid at the time of Joseph Bonaparte”s government, the liberal Manuel García de la Prada (es), whose portrait by Goya is dated 1805 and 1810. In his will of 1836 he bequeathed his works to the Academy of Fine Arts, which still preserves them. They are largely responsible for the black, romantic legend created from Goya”s paintings. They were imitated and spread, first in France and then in Spain by artists such as Eugenio Lucas and Francisco Lameyer.
In any case, his activity remained frenetic, since during these years he finished the Disasters of the War, and began another series of engravings, La Tauromaquia – put on sale in October 1816, with which he thought he would obtain greater income and a better popular reception than with the previous ones. This last series is conceived as a history of the bullfighting that recreates its founding myths and in which the picturesque predominates, in spite of many original ideas, such as those of print number 21 “Disgraces that occurred in the bullring of Madrid and death of the mayor of Torrejon”, where the left area of the print is empty of characters, in an imbalance that was unthinkable only a few years before.
As early as 1815 – although they were not published until 1864 – he worked on the engravings of the Disparates. It is a series of twenty-two prints, probably incomplete, whose interpretation is the most complex. The visions are dreamlike, full of violence and sex, the institutions of the old regime are ridiculed and are generally very critical of power. But more than these connotations, these engravings offer an imaginary world rich in relation to the world of the night, the carnival and the grotesque.Finally, two moving religious paintings, perhaps the only ones of real devotion, complete this period. Finally, two moving religious paintings, perhaps the only ones of real devotion, conclude this period: The Last Communion of St. Joseph of Calasanz and Christ in the Garden of Olives, both from 1819, on display in the Calasancio Museum of the Pious School of San Antón (es) in Madrid. The real recollection that these paintings show, the freedom of line, the signature of his hand, transmit a transcendent emotion.
The Liberal Triennium and the Black Paintings (1820-1824)
The series of fourteen murals that Goya painted between 1819 and 1823 using the oil al secco technique on the surface of the wall of the Quinta del Sordo is known as the Black Paintings. These paintings are probably Goya”s greatest masterpieces, both for their modernity and for the strength of their expression. A painting such as The Dog even comes close to abstraction; many of the works are precursors to Expressionism and other twentieth-century avant-gardes.
The murals were transposed to canvas from 1874 and are currently on display at the Prado Museum. The series, for which Goya did not give a title, was catalogued for the first time in 1828 by Antonio de Brugada, who gave them a title for the first time on the occasion of the inventory carried out at the painter”s death; there were many proposals for titles. The Quinta del Sordo became the property of his grandson Mariano Goya in 1823, after Goya had ceded it to him, a priori to protect it following the restoration of the Absolute Monarchy and the liberal repressions of Ferdinand VII. Thus, until the end of the nineteenth century, the existence of the Black Paintings was little known, and only a few critics, such as Charles Yriarte, were able to describe them. Between 1874 and 1878, the works were transferred from the wall to the canvas by Salvador Martínez Cubells at the request of Baron Émile d”Erlanger; this process caused serious damage to the works, which lost much of their quality. This French banker intended to show them for sale at the 1878 Universal Exhibition in Paris. However, as he could not find a buyer, he finally gave them to the Spanish State in 1881, which assigned them to what was then called the Museo Nacional de Pintura y Escultura (“National Museum of Painting and Sculpture”, i.e. the Prado).
Goya acquired this property, located on the right bank of the Manzanares River, near the Segovia Bridge and the road to San Isidro Park, in February 1819, probably to live with Leocadia Weiss, who was married to Isidoro Weiss. She was the woman with whom he lived and had a daughter, Rosario Weiss. In November of that year, Goya suffered from a serious illness, which he and his doctor, Eugenio Arrieta, witnessed terribly.
In any case, the Black Paintings are painted on rural images of small figures, from which he sometimes takes advantage of landscapes, as in Duel au gourdin. If these cheerful paintings are indeed by Goya, it is possible that the crisis of illness, perhaps combined with the turbulent events of the Liberal Triennium, led him to repaint them. Bozal believes that the original paintings are indeed Goya”s, since that would be the only reason he reused them; however, Gledinning believes that the paintings “were already decorating the walls of the Quinta del Sordo when he bought it.” In any case, the paintings may have been begun in 1820; they could not have been completed beyond 1823, since that year Goya left for Bordeaux and gave his property to his nephew. In 1830, Mariano de Goya passed the property on to his father, Javier de Goya.
Critics agree in proposing certain psychological and social causes for the Black Paintings. Firstly, there is the awareness of the physical decline of the painter himself, accentuated by the presence of a much younger woman in his life, Leocadia Weiss, and above all the consequences of his serious illness in 1819, which left Goya prostrate in a state of weakness and proximity to death, which is reflected in the chromaticism and theme of these works.
From a sociological point of view, there is every reason to believe that Goya painted his pictures from 1820 onwards – although there is no definitive documented evidence – after he had recovered from his physical problems. The satire of religion – pilgrimages, processions, the Inquisition – and the civil confrontations – the Duel with Clubs, the meetings and conspiracies reflected in Men Reading, the political interpretation that can be made of Saturn devouring one of his sons (the State devouring its subjects or citizens) – coincide with the situation of instability that occurred in Spain during the Liberal Triennium (1820-1823) as a result of Rafael del Riego”s constitutional removal. The themes and the tone used benefited, during this Triennium, from the absence of the strict political censorship that would take place during the restorations of the absolute monarchies. In addition, many of the characters in the Black Paintings (duelists, monks, Inquisition familiars) represent a world that was outdated, prior to the ideals of the French Revolution.
Antonio de Brugada”s inventory mentions seven works on the first floor and eight on the first floor. However, the Prado Museum only lists a total of fourteen. In 1867, Charles Yriarte describes one more painting than those currently known and specifies that it had already been removed from the wall when he visited the property: it had been transferred to the Vista Alegre palace, which belonged to the Marquis of Salamanca. Several critics consider that, for the size and themes of the painting, it would be Heads in a Landscape, preserved in New York in the Stanley Moss collection). The other problem of location concerns Two Old Men Eating Soup, which is not known whether it was a curtain on the first floor or the first floor; Glendinning locates it in one of the lower rooms.
The original distribution of the Quinta del Sordo was as follows:
It is a rectangular space. On the long walls, there are two windows close to the wide walls. Between them are two large paintings, particularly oblong: The Procession to the Hermitage of Saint Isidore on the right and The Witches” Sabbath (from 1823) on the left. At the back, on the wide wall facing the entrance wall, there is a window in the center that is surrounded by Judith and Holofernes on the right and Saturn devouring one of his sons on the left. Opposite, on each side of the door, are Leocadie (facing Saturn) and Two Old Men, facing Judith and Holofernes).
It has the same dimensions as the first floor, but the long walls have only one central window: it is surrounded by two oils. On the right wall, looking out from the door, one finds first Vision fantastique and then further on Pélerinage à la source Saint-Isidore. On the left wall, we see The Moires and then Dueling with a Club. On the wide wall, opposite, we see Women laughing on the right and Men reading on the left. To the right of the entrance is The Dog and to the left is Heads in a Landscape.
This layout and the original state of the works can be obtained, in addition to the written testimonies, from the photographic catalog that Jean Laurent put together in situ around 1874 following a commission, in anticipation of the collapse of the house. We know from him that the paintings were framed with classicist plinth wallpaper, as were the doors, windows and frieze at the sky. The walls are covered, as was usual in the bourgeois or court residences, with a material that probably comes from the Royal Wallpaper Factory promoted by Ferdinand VII. The walls on the first floor are covered with fruit and leaf motifs and those on the upper floor with geometric designs organized in diagonal lines. The photographs also document the condition of the works before their transfer.
It has not been possible, despite various attempts, to make an organic interpretation for the entire decorative series in its original location. Firstly, because the exact arrangement is not yet fully defined, but mainly because the ambiguity and difficulty of finding an exact meaning for most of the paintings in particular means that the overall meaning of these works still remains an enigma. There are, however, a few leads that can be considered.
Glendinning points out that Goya decorated his house by sticking to the usual mural decor of the palaces of the nobility and upper middle class. According to these standards, and considering that the first floor was used as a dining room, the paintings should have a theme in keeping with their surroundings: there should be rural scenes -the villa was located on the banks of the Manzanares River and facing the meadow of San Isidro-, still lifes and representations of banquets allusive to the function of the room. Although the Aragonese does not deal with these genres explicitly, Saturn Devouring One of His Sons and Two Old Men Eating Soup evoke, albeit ironically and with black humor, the act of eating, as does Judith indirectly killing Holofernes after inviting him to a banquet. Other paintings are related to the usual bucolic theme and to the close hermitage of the patron saint of the Madrileños, although with a gloomy treatment: The Pilgrimage of Saint Isidore, The Pilgrimage to Saint Isidore and even Leocadia, whose burial may be related to the cemetery annexed to the hermit.
From another point of view, when the first floor has a dim light, one realizes that the paintings are particularly dark, with the exception of Leocadie, even though her outfit is that of mourning and a tomb – perhaps that of Goya himself – appears there. In this piece the presence of death and old age are predominant. A psychoanalytical interpretation also sees sexual decadence, with young women outliving or even castrating men, as do Leocadie and Judith respectively. The old men who eat soup, two other old men and old Saturn represent the male figure. Saturn is, moreover, the god of time and the incarnation of the melancholic character, related to the black bile, what today we would call depression. Thus, the first floor thematically unites senility, which leads to death, and the strong woman, castrator of her companion.
On the floor, Glendinning evaluates different contrasts. One that contrasts laughter and tears or satire and tragedy, and the other that contrasts the elements of earth and air. For the first dichotomy, Men Reading, with its atmosphere of serenity, would be opposed to Two Women and a Man; they are the only two dark paintings in the room and would set the tone for the oppositions between the others. The spectator contemplates them at the back of the room when he enters. In the same way, in the mythological scenes of Fantastic Vision and The Moires, one can perceive tragedy, while in others, such as The Pilgrimage of the Holy Office, one can see a satyric scene. Another contrast would be based on paintings with figures suspended in the air in the aforementioned paintings of tragic theme, and others where they appear sunken or settled on the ground, as in the Duel au club and in the one of the Holy Office. But none of these hypotheses satisfactorily resolves the search for a unity in all the themes of the work under analysis.
The only unity that can be observed is that of style. For example, the composition of these paintings is innovative. The figures generally appear off-center, an extreme case of which is Heads in a Landscape, where five heads cluster at the lower right corner of the painting, appearing as if cut off or about to leave the frame. Such an imbalance is an example of the most modern compositional style. The masses of figures are also displaced in The Pilgrimage of Saint Isidore – where the main group appears on the left -, The Pilgrimage of the Holy Office – here on the right -, and even in The Moires, Fantastic Vision and The Witches” Sabbath, although in the latter case the imbalance was lost after the restoration by the Martínez Cubells brothers.
The paintings also share a very dark chromaticism. Many of the scenes in the Black Paintings are nocturnal, showing the absence of light, the dying day. This is the case in The Pilgrimage of Saint Isidore, The Witches” Sabbath or The Pilgrimage of the Holy Office, where with the sunset the evening comes and a feeling of pessimism, of terrible vision, of enigma and unreal space. The color palette is reduced to ochre, gold, earth, grays and blacks; with only some white on the clothes to create contrast, some blue in the sky and some loose brushstrokes on the landscape, where a little green appears, but always in a very limited way.
If we pay attention to the narrative anecdote, we observe that the features of the characters present reflective and ecstatic attitudes. To this second state respond the figures with very open eyes, with the pupil surrounded by white, and the throat opened to give caricatured, animal, grotesque faces. We contemplate a digestive moment, something repudiated by academic norms. We show what is not beautiful, what is terrible; beauty is no longer the object of art, but pathos and a certain awareness of showing all aspects of human life without rejecting the less pleasant. It is not for nothing that Bozal speaks of “a secular Sistine chapel where salvation and beauty have been replaced by lucidity and awareness of loneliness, old age and death”.
Goya in Bordeaux (1824-1828)
In May 1823, the Duke of Angouleme”s troop, the Cien Mil Hijos de San Luis (“One Hundred Thousand Sons of St. Louis”) as the Spaniards then called them, took Madrid with the aim of restoring the absolute monarchy of Ferdinand VII. A repression of the liberals who had supported the 1812 constitution, in force during the Liberal Triennium, took place immediately. Goya – as well as his companion Leocadia Weiss – was afraid of the consequences of this persecution and went to take refuge with a friend, the canon José Duaso y Latre. The following year he asked the king for permission to convalesce at the spa of Plombières-les-Bains, which was granted.
Goya arrived in Bordeaux in the summer of 1824 and continued on to Paris. In September he returned to Bordeaux, where he would reside until his death. His stay in France was not interrupted until 1826: he traveled to Madrid to finalize the administrative papers for his retirement, which he obtained with an annuity of 50,000 reals without any impediment from Ferdinand VII.
The drawings from these years, collected in Album G and Album H, are either reminiscent of the Disparates and the Pinturas negras, or they have a costumbrist character and bring together the prints of everyday life in the city of Bordeaux that he collected on his usual walks, as is the case in the painting The Dairywoman of Bordeaux (between 1825 and 1827). Several of these works are drawn with a lithographic pencil, in keeping with the engraving technique he was using in those years, and which he used in the series of four prints of the Taureaux de Bordeaux (1824-1825). The humble classes and the marginalized have a predominant place in the drawings of this period. Old men who show themselves with a playful attitude or doing circus exercises, such as the Viejo columpiándose (preserved in the Hispanic Society), or dramatic ones, such as the one of Goya”s double: an old bearded man walking with the help of sticks entitled Aún aprendo.
He continued to paint in oils. Leandro Fernández de Moratín, in his epistolary, the main source of information about Goya”s life during his stay in France, wrote to Juan Antonio Melón that he “painted on the fly, without ever wanting to correct what he painted. The portraits of these friends are the most remarkable, such as the one of Moratín on his arrival in Bordeaux (kept in the Museum of Fine Arts in Bilbao) or the one of Juan Bautista Muguiro in May 1827 (Prado Museum).
The most notable painting remains La Laitière de Bordeaux, a canvas that has been seen as a direct precursor to Impressionism. The chromaticism moves away from the dark palette characteristic of his Black Paintings; it features shades of blue and touches of pink. The motif, a young woman, seems to reveal Goya”s longing for the youthful, full life. This swan song is reminiscent of a later compatriot, Antonio Machado, who, also exiled from another repression, kept in his pockets the last lines where he wrote “These blue days and this sun of childhood.” In the same way, at the end of his life, Goya recalls the color of his paintings for tapestry and accuses the nostalgia of his lost youth.
Finally, we should mention the series of miniatures on ivory that he painted during this period using the technique of sgraffito on black. He invents capricious and grotesque figures on these small pieces of ivory. The capacity to innovate in textures and techniques of a Goya at a very advanced age was not exhausted.
On March 28, 1828, his daughter-in-law and grandson Mariano visited him in Bordeaux, but his son Javier did not arrive in time. Goya”s health was very delicate, not only because of the tumor that had been diagnosed some time earlier, but also because of a recent fall down the stairs that forced him to stay in bed, from which he would not recover. After a worsening at the beginning of the month, Goya died at two o”clock in the morning of April 16, 1828, accompanied at that time by his family and friends Antonio de Brugada and José Pío de Molina.
The next day he was buried in the Bordeaux cemetery of the Charterhouse, in the mausoleum of the Muguiro e Iribarren family, next to his good friend and father of his daughter-in-law, Martín Miguel de Goicoechea, who had died three years earlier. After a long period of oblivion, the Spanish consul, Joaquín Pereyra, discovered by chance Goya”s grave in a pitiful state and in 1880 began a series of administrative procedures to transfer his body to Zaragoza or Madrid, which was legally possible less than 50 years after his death. In 1888 (sixty years later), a first exhumation took place (in which the remains of both bodies were found scattered on the ground, those of Goya and his friend and brother-in-law Martin Goicoechea), but it did not result in a transfer, much to the displeasure of Spain. Moreover, to everyone”s amazement, the painter”s skull was not among the bones. An investigation was then conducted and various hypotheses were considered. An official document mentions the name of Gaubric, an anatomist from Bordeaux who would have decapitated the deceased before his burial. He may have wanted to study the painter”s brain to try to understand the origin of his genius or the cause of the deafness that suddenly affected him at 46 years old. On June 6, 1899, the two bodies were exhumed again and finally transferred to Madrid, without the artist”s head, after unsuccessful searches by investigators. The bodies were temporarily placed in the crypt of the collegiate church of San Isidro in Madrid, and in 1900 they were transferred to a collective tomb of “illustrious men” in the Sacramental de San Isidro, before being definitively transferred in 1919 to the church of San Antonio de la Florida in Madrid, at the foot of the dome that Goya had painted a century earlier. In 1950, a new lead emerged around Goya”s skull in the Bordeaux district, where witnesses would have seen it in a café in the Capuchin district, very popular with Spanish customers. A secondhand dealer in the city sold the skull and the café furniture when it closed in 1955. However, the skull was never found and the mystery of its location remains today, especially since a still life painted by Dionisio Fierros is entitled The Skull of Goya.
Evolution of his pictorial style
Goya”s stylistic development was unusual. Goya was initially trained in late Baroque and Rococo painting in his early works. His trip to Italy in 1770-1771 introduced him to classicism and the emerging neoclassicism, which can be seen in his paintings for the Charterhouse of the Aula Dei in Zaragoza. However, he never fully embraced the turn-of-the-century neo-classicism that became dominant in Europe and Spain. At court, he used other languages. In his tapestry cartoons, it is clearly the rococo sensibility that dominates, treating popular themes with joy and vivacity. He was influenced by the neoclassicals in some religious and mythological paintings but was never comfortable with this new vogue. He opted for distinct paths.
Pierre Cabanne distinguishes in Goya”s work a brutal stylistic rupture, towards the end of the 18th century, marked both by political changes – the prosperous and enlightened reign of Charles III was followed by the controversial and criticized reign of Charles IV – and by the serious illness he contracted at the end of 1792. These two causes had an important impact and determined a radical fracture between the successful artist and “frivolous courtier” Goya of the 18th century and the “haunted genius” Goya of the 19th century. This break is reflected in his technique, which becomes more spontaneous and lively, which is described as botecismo (meaning sketch), in opposition to the ordered style and smooth workmanship of neo-classicism in vogue in the art of the end of the century.
As he moved beyond the styles of his youth, he anticipated the art of his time, creating highly personal works – in painting as well as in printmaking and lithography – without bending to convention. He thus laid the foundations for other artistic movements that only developed during the 19th and 20th centuries: Romanticism, Impressionism, Expressionism and Surrealism.
Already at an advanced age, Goya claimed that his only masters were “Velázquez, Rembrandt and Nature”. The influence of the Sevillian master is particularly noticeable in his engravings after Velázquez, but also in some of his portraits, both in his treatment of space, with evanescent backgrounds, and of light, and in his mastery of painting by strokes, which already foreshadowed impressionist techniques in Velázquez. In Goya, this technique became more and more present, anticipating from 1800 the impressionists of the new century. Goya, with his psychological and realistic drawings from life, renewed the portrait.
With his engravings, he dominated the techniques of etching and aquatint, creating unusual series, fruits of his imagination and personality. In the Caprices, he mixes the dreamlike and the realistic to realize a sharp social criticism. It is still the raw and desolate realism that dominates the Disasters of War, often compared to photojournalism.
The loss of his lover and the approach of death during his last years at the Quinta del Sordo inspired his Black Paintings, images of a subconscious with dark colors. These were appreciated the following century by the Expressionists and Surrealists and considered antecedents to both movements.
The first person to influence the painter was his teacher José Luzán, who guided him with great freedom into a Rococo aesthetic with Neapolitan and Roman roots, which he himself had adopted after his training in Naples. This first style was reinforced by the influence of Corrado Giaquinto via Antonio González Velázquez (who had painted the dome of the Holy Chapel of the Pilar) and above all that of Francisco Bayeu, his second teacher who became his father-in-law.
During his stay in Italy, Goya was influenced by ancient classicism, Renaissance, Baroque and the emerging neoclassicism. Although he never adhered completely to these styles, some of his works from this period are marked by the latter style, which became predominant, and whose champion was Raphael Mengs. At the same time, he was influenced by the Rococo style of Giambattista Tiepolo, which he used in his wall decorations.
Alongside his pictorial and stylistic influences, Goya received those of the Enlightenment circles and many of its thinkers: Jovellanos, Addison, Voltaire, Cadalso, Zamora, Tixera, Gomarusa, Forner, Ramírez de Góngora, Palissot de Montenoy and Francisco de los Arcos.
Some note influences from Ramon de la Cruz on various of his works. From the cartoons for tapestries (La merienda y Baile a orillas del Manzanares), he also took the term Maja from the playwright, to the point that it became a reference to Goya. Antonio Zamora was also among his readings, as he inspired The Devil”s Lamp. Likewise, some of the engravings in Tauromaquia may have been influenced by Nicolás Fernández de Moratín”s “Carta histórica sobre el origen y progresos de las fiestas de toros en España” (by José de Gomarusa) or by the bullfighting texts of José de la Tixera.
For Martín S. Soria, another of Goya”s influences was symbolic literature, pointing out this influence in the allegorical paintings, Allegory to Poetry, Spain, Time and History.
Goya stated on several occasions that he “had no other master than Velázquez, Rembrandt and Nature”. For Manuela Mena y Marquez, in her article “Goya, the brushes of Velázquez”, the greatest force that Velázquez transmitted to him was not so much aesthetic as the awareness of the originality and novelty of his art that allowed him to become a revolutionary artist and the first modern painter. Mengs, whose technique was completely different, wrote to Antonio Ponz: “The best examples of this style are the works of Diego Velázquez, and if Titian was superior to him in color, Velázquez surpassed him in the intelligence of light and shadow, and in aerial perspective…”. In 1776, Mengs was the director of the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts, which Goya attended, and he imposed the study of Velázquez. The thirty-year-old student began a systematic study. The exclusive choice of Velázquez to produce a series of etchings to publicize the works in the royal collections is significant. But more than technique or style, he understood above all the audacity of Velázquez in representing mythological themes – The Forge of Vulcan, The Triumph of Bacchus – or religious themes – Christ on the Cross – in such a personal way. For Manuela Mena y Marquez, the most essential lesson of Velázquez”s work was the acceptance of the “infrahuman”. More than the “absence of idealized beauty” that he regularly emphasized, it is the acceptance of ugliness as such in the Sevillian”s paintings, from the palace characters to deformed beings – the Jester Calabacillas, the drunkards of Bacchus, the Meninas – that are considered antecedents to the formal rupture, to the audacity of the choice of subjects and treatment, which are so many marks of modernity.
“The silent and misunderstood artist that Velázquez was was to find his greatest discoverer, Goya, who knew how to understand him and consciously continue the language of modernity, which he had expressed a hundred and fifty years earlier, and which had remained hidden within the walls of the old palace in Madrid.”
– Manuela Mena y Marquez
The art historian Paul Guinard stated that
“Goya”s wake has been perpetuated for more than a hundred and fifty years, from Romanticism to Expressionism, even to Surrealism: no part of his legacy has remained untouched. Independent of fashions or transforming with them, the great Aragonese remains the most current, the most “modern” of the masters of the past.”
Goya”s refined style and gritty subjects were emulated during the Romantic period, shortly after his death. Among these “Goya satellites” were the Spanish painters Leonardo Alenza (1807-1845) and Eugenio Lucas (1817-1870). During Goya”s own lifetime, an unspecified assistant – for a time, his assistant Asensio Julià (1760-1832), who helped him paint the frescoes in San Antonio de la Florida, had been considered – painted The Colossus, which is so close to Goya”s style that the painting was attributed to him until 2008. The French Romantics were also quick to turn to the Spanish master, notably highlighted by the “Spanish gallery” created by Louis-Philippe, in the Louvre Palace. Delacroix was one of the great admirers of the artist. A few decades later, Édouard Manet was also greatly inspired by Goya.
Francisco de Goya”s work began approximately in 1771 with his first frescoes for the Basilica of El Pilar in Zaragoza and ended in 1827 with his last paintings, including The Dairy Woman of Bordeaux. During these years, the painter produced almost 700 paintings, 280 engravings and several thousand drawings.
The work evolved from the rococo, typical of his cartoons for tapestries, to the very personal black paintings, through the official paintings for the court of Charles IV of Spain and Ferdinand VII of Spain.
The goyesque theme is wide: the portrait, genre scenes (hunting, gallant and popular scenes, vices of society, violence, witchcraft), historical and religious frescoes, as well as still lifes.
The following article presents some famous paintings characteristic of the different themes and styles treated by the painter. The list of works by Francisco de Goya and the category Paintings by Francisco de Goya offer more complete lists.
El Quitasol (“The Umbrella” or “The Parasol”) is a painting made by Francisco de Goya in 1777 and belongs to the second series of tapestry cartoons for the Prince of Asturias” dining room in the Pardo Palace. It is kept in the Prado Museum.
The work is emblematic of the rococo period of Goya”s tapestry cartoons where he represented the customs of the aristocracy through majos and majas dressed like the people. The composition is pyramidal, the colors are warm. A man protects a damsel from the sun with an umbrella.
This canvas, painted in 1804, is representative not only of the brilliant and fashionable portraitist that Goya became during the period between his entry into the academy and the War of Independence, but also of the definite evolution of his paintings and tapestry cartoons. It is also notable for the painter”s commitment to enlightenment, which is evident in this painting, in which he depicts a Marquise of San Fernando, a scholar and great lover of art, painting a picture of her husband, on the left, Francisco de Borja y Alvarez of Toledo.
The paintings Two May and Three May were painted in 1814 in memory of the anti-French revolt of May 2, 1808 and the repression that followed the next day. Unlike many works on the same subject, Goya does not emphasize the nationalistic characteristics of each side and transforms the painting into a general critique of the war, in the continuity of Disasters of War. The location is barely suggested by the buildings in the background, which may remind us of the architecture of Madrid.
The first painting shows insurgents attacking mamelukes – Egyptian mercenaries in the pay of the French. The second painting shows the bloody repression that followed, where soldiers shot a group of rebels.
In both cases, Goya enters into the romantic aesthetic. Movement takes precedence over composition. In the painting of the Second of May, the figures on the left are cut off, as they would be by a camera capturing this action in flight. It is the contrast that prevails in the painting of the Third of May, between the shadow of the soldiers and the light of the shot, between the anonymity of the military costumes and the identifiable features of the rebels.
Goya uses a free brushstroke, a rich chromaticism. His style is reminiscent of several works of French Romanticism, notably Géricault and Delacroix.
This is probably the most famous of the black paintings. It was done between 1819 and 1823 directly on the walls of the Quinta del Sordo (“Country House of the Deaf”) in the vicinity of Madrid. The painting was transferred to canvas after Goya”s death and has since been on display at the Prado Museum in Madrid. It is also the one that has been best preserved. By this time, at the age of 73, and after surviving two serious illnesses, Goya was probably more concerned about his own death and increasingly embittered by the civil war in Spain.
This painting refers to Greek mythology, where Cronos, to avoid the fulfillment of the prediction that he would be dethroned by one of his sons, devours each of them at birth.
The decapitated and bloody corpse of a child is held in the hands of Saturn, a giant with hallucinated eyes emerging from the right side of the canvas and whose open mouth swallows the arm of his son. The framing cuts off part of the god to accentuate the movement, a typical feature of Romanticism. In contrast, the headless body of the child, motionless, is exactly centered, his buttocks being at the intersection of the diagonals of the canvas.
The color palette used, as throughout this series, is very limited. Black and ochre dominate, with a few subtle touches of red and white – the eyes – applied energetically with very loose brushstrokes. This painting, like the rest of the works in Quinta del Sordo, has stylistic traits characteristic of the twentieth century, particularly expressionism.
Prints and lithographs
Less known than his paintings, his engraved work is nevertheless important, much more personal and revealing of his personality and his philosophy.
His first etchings date from the 1770s. In 1778, he published a series of engravings on works by Diego Velázquez using this technique. He then began to use aquatint, which he used in his Caprices, a series of eighty plates published in 1799 on sarcastic themes about his contemporaries.
Between 1810 and 1820, he engraved another series of eighty-two plates on the troubled period following the invasion of Spain by Napoleonic troops. The collection, called The Disasters of War, includes engravings testifying to the atrocity of the conflict (scenes of execution, famine…). Goya joined another series of engravings, the Caprices emphatiques, satirical on the power in place but can not edit the whole. His plates were only discovered after the death of the artist”s son in 1854 and finally published in 1863.
In 1815 he began a new series on bullfighting, which he published a year later under the title: La Tauromaquía. The work consists of thirty-three engravings, etchings and aquatints. That same year he began a new series, the Disparates (Desparrete de la canalla con laznas, media luna, banderillas), engravings also on the theme of bullfighting. This series will also only be rediscovered after the death of his son.
In 1819, he made his first attempts in lithography and published his Taureaux de Bordeaux at the end of his life.
Goya produced several albums of sketches and drawings, usually classified by letter Album A, B, C, D, E, to which is added his Italian Notebook, a sketchbook of his trip to Rome in his youth.
If many of these sketches were reproduced in engraving or painting, others were obviously not intended to be engraved, such as the moving portrait of the Duchess of Alba holding María de la Luz, her black adopted daughter (Album A, Prado Museum).
Most of Goya”s work is preserved in Spain, notably in the Prado Museum, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in San Fernando and in the royal palaces.
The rest of the collection is distributed among the world”s major museums, in France, the United Kingdom (National Gallery), the United States (National Gallery of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art), Germany (Frankfurt), Italy (Florence) and Brazil (São Paolo).in France, the bulk of the Aragonese master”s paintings are kept at the Louvre, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille and the Goya Museum in Castres (Tarn). The latter museum has the most important collection, with notably the Self-portrait with glasses, the Portrait of Francisco del Mazo, the Junta of the Philippines, as well as the large engraved series: Los Caprichos, La Tauromaquia, Les Désastres de la guerre, Disparates.
“Goya, nightmare full of unknown things, Of fetuses that are cooked in the middle of sabbats, Of old women with mirrors and children all naked To tempt the Demons adjusting their stockings well.”
– Charles Baudelaire
Josefa Bayeu y Subías (en) (born in ? died in 1812, the Pepa), sister of the Spanish painter Francisco Bayeu (1734-1795, also a student of Raphael Mengs), wife of Goya, is the mother of Antonio Juan Ramón Carlos de Goya Bayeu, Luis Eusebio Ramón de Goya Bayeu (1775), Vicente Anastasio de Goya Bayeu, Maria del Pilar Dionisia de Goya Bayeu, Francisco de Paula Antonio Benito de Goya Bayeu (1780), Hermenegilda (1782), Francisco Javier Goya Bayeu (1884), and two others, probably stillborn.
The only surviving legitimate child, Francisco Javier Goya Bayeu (1784-1854) is the main heir of his father and the witness of his depression.
Javier, “Dumpling”, “the Cheeky”, husband of Gumersinda Goicoechea, was the father of Mariano (Pío Mariano Goya Goicoechea, Marianito, 1806-1878), husband of Concepción, father of Mariano Javier and Maria de la Purificación.
From the study of their correspondence, Sarah Simmons assumes a “long homosexual affair” between Goya and Martin Zapater that is mentioned in the novel by Jacek Dehnel and Natacha Seseña (es).