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Francisco Goya

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes

Francisco Goya

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes

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Francisco Goya was a talented Spanish painter and printmaker, and is considered one of the last of the Old Masters of painting, as well as the first of the moderns. He began his apprenticeship in painting at the age of 14, and his talent was quickly recognized. He first submitted entries to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1763, and then later in 1766, both of which were denied. But, in 1771, he traveled to Rome and won second place in a painting competition and secured employment designing tapestries at the Royal Tapestry Factory. He completed over 42 patterns, which were used to cover the walls in the newly built palaces around Madrid, giving him an immediate royal audience.

In the 1780’2 he became friendly with the crown prince of Spain, spending two summers with him and his family, paintings portraits, and expanding his circle of royal patrons. He was given a salaried position as a court painter in 1786, and in 1799 was made the first court painter, painting for the king and his family, as well as the Spanish nobility.

Between the years of 1792 and 1793, Goya suffered from a mysterious illness, which made him deaf, and affected his mental behavior. Some current medical scientists believe that his deafness was a result of the lead in which he used in his paints, whereas others believe it may have been some sort of viral encephalitis. Either way, its effect on Goya cannot be understated. After his illness, he became withdrawn and introspective, and began painting a series of disturbing paintings on the walls of his house in Quinta del Sordo. His earlier themes of merry festivals and cartoons changed into depictions of war and corpses, representing a darkening of his mood. Whether this has more to do with the French declaration of war on Spain or some medical problem leading to mental disturbance is up to debate.

As such, his legacy ranges from simple portraits of the royal family to devilish portrayals of demons eating their young. His legacy also has inspired several operas, a piano suite, and a number of feature films.

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Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (/ˈɡɔɪə/; Spanish: [fɾanˈθisko xoˈse ðe ˈɣoʝa i luˈθjentes]; 30 March 1746 – 16 April 1828) was a Spanish romantic painter and printmaker. He is considered the most important Spanish artist of late 18th and early 19th centuries and throughout his long career was a commentator and chronicler of his era. Immensely successful in his lifetime, Goya is often referred to as both the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns. He was also one of the great contemporary portraitists.

He was born to a modest family in 1746 in the village of Fuendetodos in Aragon. He studied painting from age 14 under José Luzán y Martinez and moved to Madrid to study with Anton Raphael Mengs. He married Josefa Bayeu in 1773; their life was characterised by an almost constant series of pregnancies and miscarriages, and only one child, a son, survived into adulthood. Goya became a court painter to the Spanish Crown in 1786 and this early portion of his career is marked by portraits of the Spanish aristocracy and royalty, and Rococo style tapestry cartoons designed for the royal palace.

Goya was guarded, and although letters and writings survive, little is known about his thoughts. He suffered a severe and undiagnosed illness in 1793 which left him deaf. Sick and disillusioned, after 1793 his work became progressively darker and pessimistic. His later easel and mural paintings, prints and drawings appear to reflect a bleak outlook on personal, social and political levels, and contrast with his social climbing. He was appointed Director of the Royal Academy in 1795, the year Manuel Godoy made an unfavorable treaty with France. In 1799 Goya became Primer Pintor de Cámara, the then-highest rank for a Spanish court painter. In the late 1790s, commissioned by Godoy, he completed his La maja desnuda, a remarkably daring nude for the time and clearly indebted to Diego Velázquez. In 1801 he painted Charles IV of Spain and His Family.

In 1807 Napoleon led the French army into the Peninsular War against Spain. Goya remained in Madrid during the war which seems to have affected him deeply. Although he did not vocalise his thoughts in public, they can be inferred from his Disasters of War series of prints (although published 35 years after his death) and his 1814 paintings The Second of May 1808 and The Third of May 1808. Other works from his mid period include the Caprichos and Los Disparates etching series, and a wide variety of paintings concerned with insanity, mental asylums, witches, fantastical creatures and religious and political corruption, all of which suggest that he feared for both his country's fate and his own mental and physical health.

His late period culminates with the Black Paintings of 1819–1823, applied on oil on the plaster walls of his house the Quinta del Sordo (house of the deaf man) where, disillusioned by political and social developments in Spain he lived in near isolation. Goya eventually abandoned Spain in 1824 to retire to the French city of Bordeaux, accompanied by his much younger maid and companion, Leocadia Weiss, who may or may not have been his lover. There he completed his La Tauromaquia series and a number of other, major, canvases. Following a stroke which left him paralyzed on his right side, and suffering failing eyesight and poor access to painting materials, he died and was buried on 16 April 1828 aged 82. His body was later re-interred in Spain.

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