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José de Goya y Lucientes(1746-1828)
Spanish painter and engraver. He painted portraits of four successive kings of Spain; his series of etchings include the famous Caprichos 1797–98 and The Disasters of War 1810–14, both depicting the horrors of the French invasion of Spain. Among his later works are the “Black Paintings” (Prado, Madrid), with such horrific images as Saturn Devouring One of His Sons about 1822.
Goya was born in Aragon and was for a time a bullfighter, the subject of some of his etchings. After studying in Italy, he returned to Spain and was employed on a number of paintings for the royal tapestry factory as well as numerous portraits. In 1789 he was appointed court painter to Charles IV. The eroticism of his Naked Maja and Clothed Maja about 1800–05 (Prado, Madrid) caused such outrage that he was questioned by the Inquisition. The Shootings of May 3rd 1808 1814 (Prado, Madrid), painted for Ferdinand VII, is passionate in its condemnation of the inhumanity of war. Technically, Goya attained brilliant effects by thin painting over a red earth ground. Much influenced by Rembrandt (“Rembrandt, Velasquez and Nature” were, he said, his guides), he turned in later years to a dusky near-monochrome. His skill, however, seemed to increase with age, and the Milkmaid of Bordeaux, one of his last paintings, shows him using color with great freedom.
He showed early promise and was apprenticed at 14 to a painter in Saragossa, José Luzán y Martinez. He left for Madrid at 19, where he worked for the painter Francisco Bayeu. He married Bayeu’s sister Josefa 1773, after a short visit to Rome, and settled in Madrid. His brother-in-law’s connections helped him to gain an important commission 1775 for a series of 40 tapestry designs. These were not strictly “cartoons” but large paintings on canvas depicting various aspects of Spanish life in a decorative style which owed something to Rococo art and particularly to Tiepolo, though such examples as The Four Seasons were essentially Spanish in type and landscape setting, and individually brilliant in execution. He worked on these designs for a number of years as well as on wall paintings for churches, and by 1786 was court painter to Charles III. In 1799 he was the king’s first painter and an artist of recognized eminence. He became deaf 1792 as the result of a serious illness and his position during and after the
Napoleonic invasion of Spain was uneasy. When Ferdinand VII was driven out he continued to work for the usurper Joseph Bonaparte. When Ferdinand was restored he was not penalized but seems to have found the restored court uncongenial and sought permission 1824 to retire to France, spending the last few years of his life in Bordeaux. It is part of the complexity of Goya’s life and work that he enjoyed court life; that he was at the same time a revolutionary in taking an intensely critical view of institutions; that he hated war; that he was a patriot yet one with an artist’s detachment. His portraits of Charles IV and his queen were mercilessly unflattering, though the royal family is grouped in splendor in the famous masterpiece, the Family of Charles IV, in the Prado. Examples of his portraits of men include Don Sebastian Martinez (New York Metropolitan Museum) and the portrait of Francisco Bayeu (Prado); his portraits of women include those of Dońa Tadea de Enriquez (Prado) and the sultry beauty of Dońa Isa
bel de Porcel (National Gallery, London). His paintings of Spanish festivals, religious processions and bullfights reveal his passionate interest in and yet critical analysis of human behavior. They include somber representations of the madhouse, prison cell and scene of execution. His revolutionary spirit appears in the famous etched and aquatinted series of graphic works, Los Caprichos, with their covert attack on the corruption of court and clergy, the Proverbs and the Disparates or Extravagances of 1819, with their further sardonic comment on human absurdity. The Disasters of War was a more direct impeachment of the cruelty and horrors perpetrated during the French invasion. They have their equivalents in the later paintings. War inspired the grim masterpiece, The Firing Party, 3rd May 1808 (Prado), which incited Manet to paint the execution of the Emperor Maximilian. The paintings in Goya’s own villa, La Quinta del Sordo (The Deaf Man’s House), conjured up such dreadful visions as his Saturn, The Witches
’ Sabbath and the weird pathos of the Pilgrimage to San Isidro. Here his deafness seems to have heightened his sensitivity to the strangeness of human grimace. His religious pictures count for less in the estimate of his art. His frescoes for the church of San Antonio de la Florida in Madrid are inappropriately mundane, yet he was capable also in his late years of a work as full of spiritual emotion as his Communion of San José (Bayonne).