Francisco de Goya is one of the most important artistic icons of Spain. He was born in Zaragoza (Aragón), and is considered the main precursor of impressionism as well as the father of modern art in Spain. He started working with his father when he was only five years old, but a few years later he traveled to Madrid to train as an artist under the guidance of Francisco Bayeu. Goya started working in a tapestry factory where he learned the art of portrait painting.
In 1789 Goya was declared official painter of the court of Carlos IV. Some years later, when Napoleon’s troops invaded Spain, Goya experienced the horrors of war first-hand. This experience overwhelmed the artist to such extent that his works became intensely influenced by the dramatism and darkness encountered in the carnage of war. This period is widely known as the dark stage of Francisco de Goya.
If you want to learn more about this great and world renowned Spanish artist and his art collection at the Prado Museum in Madrid continue reading this post!
Why was Francisco de Goya so important?
It can be said that the style developed by Francisco de Goya became the starting point of Romanticism. In addition, his art is widely considered as the stepping stone of contemporary painting, a precursor of the pictorial avant-garde of the twentieth century. Consequently, the painter is considered one of the great masters of art history and one of the most relevant Spanish artists.
In addition, the painter is considered a true chronicler of his time as he captured the convulsive and disturbing historical period in Spain that he was forced to endure. The War of the Independence of Spain against the French occupation was treated by the painter as an artistic report of the atrocities committed.
The powerful artistic legacy of Francisco de Goya has generated controversy and expectation around the world. An example of this is the famous nude Maja (Maja desnuda) and the controversy it generated over the identity of the young woman portrayed. Some portraits also establish the path towards new bourgeois art and date back to the beginning of the 19th century.
When the War of Independence ended, the artist painted two large works dedicated to the heroic rise of the Dos de Mayo in 1808 as the people of Madrid confronted the French. These paintings set the aesthetic and thematic precedent of the artist’s history-in-the-making unique style.
Nevertheless, most experts consider that his masterpiece are the series of oil paintings on a dry wall with which he decorated his country house and which would later be known as the Black Paintings. With these paintings, Goya anticipated contemporary art and the avant-garde movements that ensued and would mark the artistic trends of the 20th century.
Francisco de Goya travelled to Italy in 1770, where he became acquainted with the incipient Italian Neoclassicism style, but adapted it to his own artistic personality once he returned to Madrid in the middle of that decade. It can be said that the painter received influence from the Italian artistic culture of the second half of the 18th century, a period known as the Enlightenment.
The atrocities committed during the Spanish War of Independence against the French also marked his style. These experiences motivated the artist to capture the penalties of war on canvas.
But if there was something that inspired and transformed his style it was the serious illness that would change his life after 1793. The artist became deaf due to an unknown disease that tormented him and led him to approach a more creative, poignant and original painting style. His themes became less amiable. A series of tinplate little pictures began the mature phase of the artist and led the transition towards romantic aesthetics.
What characterizes the dark age of Francisco de Goya?
The dark age of Francisco de Goya is marked both by the illness he suffered that affected his hearing and by the horrors experienced during the Spanish War of Independence. Although experts believe it to be the result of the disease. During this period the painter developed the so-called Black Paintings (1819-1823), which are a series of fourteen murals painted in dry oil. These works were dedicated to decorating the murals of his country house. The murals were transferred to the canvas from 1874 onwards and are now in the Prado Museum in Madrid. The author did not title this series, but it was catalogued by his friend Antonio de Brugada. The canvases that make up the series are Atropos or The Fates, Two Elders or An Elder and a Friar, Two Elders Eating Soup, Dueling with Clubs or The Fighting, The Coven, Men Reading, Judith and Holofernes, The Pilgrimage of Saint Isidore, Two Women and a Man, Pilgrimage to the Fountain of Saint Isidore or Procession of the Holy Office, Dog half sunken or more simply The Dog, Saturn devouring a Child, One Hand: Mrs. Leocadia Zorrilla and Fantastic Vision or Asmodea.
How did Francisco de Goya become deaf?
During a trip to Andalusia, southern Spain, Francisco de Goya began to suffer severe headaches, hallucinations, dizziness and walking difficulties caused by an illness that the painter contracted in 1793. This disease is unknown to date and has caused so much research that it has created great controversy. It ended up causing him to become completely deaf. This fact could mark the beginning of his black series and of the works in which the artist’s imagination is expressed with greater freedom.
Experts around the world are working to find an answer to the disease that caused Goya’s deafness and there is speculation about it, but for now it remains an unresolved medical issue.
What works by Francisco de Goya can be seen at the Prado Museum? In the works of Francisco de Goya it is difficult to speak of a certain style or aesthetic. Although the author may adopt characteristic features of certain artistic styles, it is more appropriate to speak of a Goya style, which is characterized by a loose brushstroke and the ability to capture the psychology of the characters.
The prairie of San Isidro (1788)
The Prairie of San Isidro (La pradera de San Isidro) is an oil on canvas that dates from 1788 and is preserved in the Prado Museum. Although it is a country theme, typical of the Rococo, it is very risky to recognize this work as belonging to a Rococo style. This work is part of a series designed to decorate the Palace of El Pardo, but with the death of Carlos III the whole was left unfinished. The painting, which was to measure 7 meters, was in a small portrait that has become the iconographic model of Goya’s Madrid. It shows the view of Madrid from the hermitage of San Isidro, patron saint of the city, on the day of the pilgrimage.
The nude Maja (1797/1800)
One of Francisco de Goya’s most famous works is The Nude Maja (La Maja desnuda). This work is an oil on canvas dating from 1797 to 1800 and is preserved in the Prado Museum. This masterpiece would later be paired with La Maja vestida (The Maja dressed), but from the beginning The Nude Maja was not designed to be part of a pair of paintings. It was most certainly a commission from Manuel Godoy (minister of the king). In both works, the same woman reclines on a bed of pillows and looks at the viewer. Her identity, despite wide speculation, remains a mystery.
Carlos IV on horseback (1800)
Carlos IV on horseback (Carlos IV a caballo) is an oil on canvas portrait dating from 1800 and is preserved in the Prado Museum after been brought from the Royal Palace. The portrait depicts King Charles IV on a horse dressed in the dark blue uniform of the Colonel of the Corps Guards, displaying the band and Grand Cross of the order of Charles III and the red band of the Neapolitan order of San Jenaro.
The family of Carlos IV (La familia de Carlos IV) is a collective portrait of the royal family painted by Francisco de Goya dating from 1800 and is kept in the Prado Museum. This painting was part of the collection of the Royal Palace, but was transferred to the Prado Museum by order of King Ferdinand VII, son and heir of Charles IV, who is also represented in the painting. The picture shows the royal family standing, dressed in silk with luxurious clothes and jewels.
The executions of May 3 (1813/1814)
Madrid on May 3 (El 3 de mayo en Madrid), or The executions (Los fusilamientos) are the names attributed to this work by Francisco de Goya, an oil on canvas dating from 1814, located in the Prado Museum. After the War of Independence, the return to Spain of Ferdinand VII as king was imminent despite the fact that the new king would first have to swear to the new Constitution of 1812. Although this work was not exhibited in the streets to receive the king like many others, it is known that it was an order of the monarch.
The Self-portrait (Autorretrato) was painted by Francisco de Goya and dates from 1815, when the painter was 69 years old. It is an oil on canvas and is one of the last works in which the artist has represented himself. It was painted during the Restoration of the absolute monarchy in Spain, when artists and liberals suffered great repression and Goya moved away from social life. It was at this time that he acquired his country house, Quinta de Sordo, where he developed his most mature art.
These are just little guidelines for what you need to know about Francisco de Goya and his art. Many of his awesome works are kept in the Prado Museum and can be visited and admired. It is a worthwhile endeavor to approach Goya’s work and feel what the artist wanted to convey through his collection of works. If you wish to know more about the works of Francisco de Goya and engage in a fascinating live experience, please contact us through our website. We have at your disposal the best tours of the Prado Museum so that you can immerse yourself in the pleasurable and intense voyage of discovery of Spanish and international art. Do not hesitate and get in contact with us. We will be happy to help you and advise you.
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