The Artist Francisco Goya

Born in 1746, the Spanish painter Francisco Goya is widely viewed as the last of the Old Masters. Simultaneously, he is also regarded as the first modern artist for the imaginative aspects of his work. As court painter for the Spanish Crown, Goya produced art that chronicled his era. Additionally, he was a notable printmaker. Essentially a Romantic artist, Goya produced such masterpieces as The Second of May 1808 (1814), The Parasol (c.1777), and The Family of Charles IV of Spain (1800).

Goya was born in the Aragon region of Spain in the small town of Fuendetodos. His father was a gilder. The family moved to the nearby city of Zaragoza sometime after 1749. Goya attended school and was apprenticed to the painter Jose Luzan when he was fourteen. Afterward he studied under the painter Anton Raphael Mengs in Madrid. In 1771 Goya traveled to Rome where he won second prize in a painting competition put on by the city of Parma.

Upon his return to Zaragoza Goya received commissions whereby he developed many hallmarks of his artistic technique. One of these early commissions was to paint part of the cupola of the Basilica of the Pillar. In 1773 he married the sister of artist Francisco Bayeu y Subias. His brother-in-law, as a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Art, helped him obtain work as a painter of designs for the Royal Tapestry Factory. His designs were used to decorate the walls of El Escorial and the Palacio Real del Pardo. At this time his painting of the altar for the Church of San Francisco El Grande resulted in his acceptance to the Royal Academy of Fine Art.

Goya’s tenure as a painter of royalty began in 1783 with his commission to paint the Count of Floridablanca. He then began to paint other important members of the royal family such as King Carlos III and the Crown Prince Don Luis. After the death of Carlos III, Goya was appointed court painter to Charles IV and eventually became First Court Painter. Additionally he painted many portraits for members of the Spanish nobility. Upon the restoration of King Ferdinand VII, Goya largely fell out of favor with royalty but still garnered significant commissions from nobility.

Aside from his portrait work Goya also began to paint many experimental pieces—paintings, drawings, and etchings. Later in life he entered a dark period painting largely fantastical and nightmarish works. Goya is also credited as the first painter to paint an openly profane life size nude of a woman; the painting is known as The Nude Maja (c.1800). He also painted the same woman in the same pose fully clothed in 1803 and titled it The Clothed Maja. The darkness of war frequently permeated Goya’s art. The artist eventually moved to Bourdeaux where he died in 1828. Other significant works by the painter include The Madhouse (1812-1819), The White Duchess (1795), The Duke of Wellington (1812-1814), and The Forge (c.1817).