Joan M. Rehlin
This month's mini art history post features Fancisco José de Goya y Lucientes (3/30/1746–4/16/1828), a Spanish Romantic painter, portraitist, and printmaker. Goya was referred to as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the Moderns. As an artistic chronicler of history, Goya depicted many of his subject matters with a leaning toward political satire, and he was immensely successful during his lifetime.
Born into a lower middle-class family, at age 14 Goya began studying painting. At age 18 he moved to Madrid and then Rome, where he continued his art education. Two of his paintings survive from that period, both dated 1771, and that same year Goya won second prize in a painting competition. He then returned to his family’s hometown of Zaragoza where he was hired to paint religious frescoes and, in 1773, married Josefa Bayeu.
In 1777, Goya earned a commission from the Royal Tapestry Factory to create rococo tapestry cartoons (from cartone, Italian for a large sheet of paper used to prepare tapestry). Designing over 40 tapestries that decorated and insulated stone walls in the Spanish monarchs’ residencies, Goya parlayed that commission into more prestigious work. During the 1780s, he painted portraits of Spanish nobility as well as royalty, and he also earned a salaried position as painter to Charles III in 1786 and Charles IV in 1789. Many of those portraits are notable for their satirical, less-than-flattering portrayals. Shown here and currently in Madrid at the Museo del Prado, Charles IV of Spain and His Family is thought to reveal the corruption behind the king’s rule, with his wife, Louisa, having the real power. Goya placed her at the center of the group and, at the back left, placed himself looking out at the viewer.
In 1793, an illness left Goya deaf and contributed to his being withdrawn. He may have also suffered from lead poisoning due to his using large amounts of lead oil paint. His subsequent physical and mental decline produced dark nightmare fantasies and caused a change in the direction of his work. At age 75, Goya painted a series of 14 Black Paintings in oil, directly onto the plaster walls of his home. Those remained relatively unknown until almost 50 years after Goya’s death when the works were removed and put on permanent display in the Museo del Prado.
Charles IV of Spain and His Family, oil on canvas, 1800, Francisco Goya
Welcome to our Art Blog where we occasionally present topics of interest in the fine art world, including featuring artists other than Jim Rehlin. Some of the artwork has been created by long-departed but well-known greats; some, by compelling contemporary artists. All will be pieces we find worthwhile to share with you. If you like any of these, consider sharing the posts forward to your own blogs and other social media.