1746 – 1828
Francisco de Goya was born in a very poor village called Fuendetodos,
near Saragossa, in Aragon, on 30 March 1746. Goya’s father was a gilder in
Saragossa and it was there that Goya spent his childhood and adolescence.
He began his artistic studies at the age of 13 with a local artist,
Jos Lusn, who had trained in Naples and who taught Goya to draw, to copy
engravings and to paint in oils. In 1763 and 1766, he competed
unsuccessfully for a scholarship of the Royal Academy of San Fernando in
Madrid, probably working in the studio of the Court Painter Francisco
Bayeu, who was also from Saragossa. To continue his studies he went to Rome
at his own expense. In April of 1771 he participated in a competition held
by the Academy of Parma introducing himself as a pupil of Francisco Bayeu.
By the end of 1771, Goya was back in Saragossa, where he received his first
official commission, the frescoes in the Cathedral of El Pilar.
In 1780, Goya was elected a member of the Royal Academy of San
Fernando. In 1780-81, he worked on the frescoes of El Pilar in Saragossa.
On his return to Madrid he received the royal invitation to paint one of
seven large altarpieces for the newly built church of San Francisco el
Grande. The King’s opinion of his work must have been favorable, because in
1785, a year after the paintings were first shown to the public, Goya was
appointed Deputy Director of Painting in the Academy. In 1786, he became a
Among Goya’s early admirers and most important patrons during a period
of 20 years were the Duke and Duchess of Osuna, who commissioned not only
portraits of themselves and a family group but also a number of paintings
to decorate their country residence near Madrid, the Alameda Palace, known
as El Capricho. Among other paintings for the Duke of Osuna are two
altarpieces, commissioned in 1788 for the chapel of his ancestors, St.
Francis Borgia, in Valencia Cathedral.
In 1783-85, Goya painted a number of portraits of the influential
persons of his time: the portrait of the Chief Minister of State, the Count
of Floridablanca, in which Goya himself appears; the family portrait of the
Infante Don Luis, the King’s brother, with himself again in the picture;
the court architect, Ventura Rodriguez. In 1785, he was commissioned for a
series of portraits of offices of the Banco Nacional de San Carlos. In
these early official portraits, Goya adopted conventional XVIII century
poses. His portrait of Charles III in Hunting Costume is based directly on
Velasquez’s paintings of royal huntsmen.
The death of Charles III in 1788, and the outbreak of the French
Revolution, brought to an end the period of comparative prosperity and
enlightenment in Spain during which Goya had reached maturity. Under the
rule of the weak Charles IV and his unscrupulous Queen, Mara Luisa, Spain
fell into political and social corruption, which ended with the Napoleonic
invasion of Spain. Under the new regime Goya reached the height of his
career as the most fashionable and successful artist in Spain. The new King
raised him to the rank of Court Painter in 1789.
During a visit to Andalusia towards the end of 1792, Goya was struck
down by a long and serious illness of which the effect, as he wrote even a
year later, made him, ‘At times rage with so ill a humor that he could not
tolerate himself’. The nature of the illness is not known for certain but
it caused temporary paralysis and partial blindness and left him
permanently deaf, so that henceforth he could only communicate by writing
and sign language. He returned to Madrid in the summer of 1793.
After the death of Francisco Bayeu in 1795, Goya succeeded his former
teacher as Director of Painting in the Academy (but resigned for reasons of
health two years later), and in 1799 was appointed First Court Painter. In
1799, Goya published the series of 80 etchings called Los Caprichos, bitter
caricatures of life. Despite the veiled language of Los Caprichos they were
withdrawn from sale after a few days.
In August 1812, when the British entered Madrid, Goya accepted a
commission for an equestrian portrait of the Duke of Wellington and, soon
afterwards, painted one other portrait of his only recorded English sitter.
On the restoration of Ferdinand VII in 1814, Goya resumed his office as
First Court Painter. The portraits of Ferdinand were Goya’s last royal
portraits, he went out of favor and fashion. From now on Goya was chiefly
occupied with paintings for private patrons, for friends and for himself.
He continued to record his observations and ideas in drawings. During this
period Goya received two important ecclesiastical commissions for St. Justa
and St. Rufina, painted in 1817 for the Seville Cathedral, and for The Last
Communion of St. Joseph of Calasanz, painted in 1819 for the church of the
Escuelas Pas de San Antn in Madrid.
As a result of the revolution of 1820 Ferdinand VII was forced to
recognize a constitution, but already in 1823 the French army restored the
Spanish king to absolute power, and the persecution of the liberals was
renewed with greater violence than ever before. Goya, who had made his last
appearance at the Academy on 4 April 1820 to swear allegiance to the
Constitution, went into hiding early in 1824. After the declaration of
amnesty Goya left Spain. Except for two short visits to Madrid in 1826 and
1827, the painter remained in France, mainly in Bordeaux, for the rest of
his life. He died in Bordeaux on 16 April, 1828.