Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes


Datos principales

Fecha nacimiento 
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País nacimiento 
Fecha muerte 
Lugar muerte 


Great geniuses are always difficult to classify. Normally they are responsible for setting trends but sometimes, as in Goya's case, they distance themselves from the characteristic style of their time, and it is maybe Goya's breaking away from conventional style that makes him all the more interesting. Francisco de Goya y Lucientes was born on 30th March 1746 in Fuendetodos, a small village in the province of Saragossa. His parents were of the lower middle class; his father, Jose Goya, was a master guilder, owning a workshop and little more. In fact, he did not even make a will because he did not have anything to leave, according to the parish obituary. Engracia Lucientes belonged to a noble family that had come down in the world. Goya's family had land and a house in Fuendetodo but they soon moved to Saragossa. In the Aragonese capital, Goya started his education. He went to Father Joaquín's school, where he met his close friend Martin Zapater and where he also seems to have attended Jose Ramírez's drawing school. There is evidence that he was apprenticed to José Luzán at the age of twelve. Luzán introduced him to the decadent style that marked the end of the Baroque period. In the workshop he met the Bayeu brothers, who would be very important for his professional career. Saragossa was very small and Goya wanted to learn at the Court, so in 1763 he moved to Madrid and participated in a competition for grants to travel to Italy awarded by the Academy of San Fernando, but was unsuccessful. In the capital he became [Francisco Bayeu's#pintor_en#1211] pupil. Bayeu was on excellent terms with the artistic leader of the moment and the promoter of Neoclassicism, Anton Raphael Mengs. Bayeu showed Goya the lighting, sheens and sketching of this style of painting. Goya worked in his studio for five years, regularly trying to win the grant to visit Italy but always with the same result. In the end he decided to go on his own and it is said that he even worked as a bullfighter to raise money for the trip. In 1771 he was in Parma and took part in a competition in which he came second. His visit to Italy was brief but very productive. Towards the middle of 1771 he was back in Saragossa where he received his first commissions on religious themes and which he did in a completely academic style. On 25th July 1773 in Madrid Goya married Maria Josepha Bayeu, Francisco and Ramón Bayeu's sister, bringing him even closer to his "master". Thanks to this relationship he received his first commissions from the Court. He was employed in the royal tapestry factory, where he designed cartoons for the tapestries. He worked for the factory for eighteen years during which time he designed his most prized cartoons: Dance on the Banks of the River Manzanares, The Parasol, The Crockery Seller, The Grape Harvest (or Autumn) and The Wedding. During this time he also worked on other important commissions. In 1780 he became a member of the Academy of San Fernando, after submitting his Crucifixion, now in the Museo del Prado. That same year he decorated the cupola of the cathedral of El Pilar in Saragossa, although his spirited, colourist style did not please the cathedral chapter and provoked a confrontation with his brother-in-law, Francisco Bayeu. When he returned to Madrid he worked for the recently inaugurated church of San Francisco el Grande, commissioned by one of [Charles III's#PERSONAS#28] ministers. In Madrid Goya began his portrait facet but it was not until 1793 that he painted the King's younger brother, Prince Louis, and his family in Arenas de San Pedro, near Avila. This painting helped him on his way to becoming a court painter as did his contacts with important noble families, such as the Osunas, and the Medinacelis, whose portraits he started to paint. His portrait of the [Family of the Duke and Duchess of Osuna#CUADROS#717] was a milestone in Goya's career. [Charles IV#PERSONAS#41] inherited the throne from his father in December of 1788. Goya's relationship with the new King was very close and he was named pintor_en de Camara (Court Painter) in April 1789. This new position was a triumph for the artist and the majority of the Madrid Court visited his studio to have their portrait painted, despite the artist's high prices. In 1792 Goya fell ill and although the nature of his illness is not known, we do know that it left him stone-deaf. It happened in Cadiz and Seville and he spent six months convalescing in Andalusia. The illness made him bitterer but augmented his painterly genius. His earlier soft, flattering style gave way to a new way of working. After his brother-in-law's death in 1795 he became the director of the Academy of San Fernando, which represented an important recognition of his work. That same year, his relationship with the Duke and Duchess of Alba began, especially with Doña Cayetana, whose beauty and charm captivated the artist. When she was widowed she retired to Sanlúcar de Barrameda and was accompanied by Goya, who did various sketchbooks of drawings, some of which show the duchess in compromising positions. This relationship has led to the hypothesis that the [Maja Unclothed#CUADROS#947], Goya's most famous painting, is of the Duchess of Alba. She also featured in some of the [Caprichos#CUADROS#1793], a series of engravings that mercilessly criticise the society of the time, making the artist's enlightened ideology apparent. In 1798 the artist painted the so-called Sistine Chapel of Madrid, emulating Michelangelo, in the church of San Antonio de la Florida. In the frescos the artist depicted the common people of Madrid witnessing a miracle. In the same year he did an excellent portrait of his friend, the philosopher and economist, Jovellanos. His contact with the royal family increased and he came to paint [The Family of Charles IV#CUADROS#119]; Goya's genius captured them exactly as they were, without flattering or beautifying them. The Countess of Chinchón was another of his powerful portraits from 1800. The first few years of the 19th century passed calmly for Goya, who spent the time working on portraits of members of the most aristocratic Spanish families, although he kept an expectant eye on the development of political events. The outbreak of the Spanish War of Independence in May 1808 signified a serious internal dilemma for the artist. On one hand his liberal views brought him close to the pro-French supporters and Joseph Bonaparte, the new Spanish king, whilst on the other his patriotism drew him towards those who were fighting against the French. This internal debate is reflected in his painting, which became darker and gloomier, as The Colossus and the series of plates in etching and aquatint, the Disasters of War, reveal. His style became freer and simpler. At the end of the conflict he painted his famous works on the May uprising, The Second of May 1808 (Uprising) and The Third of May 1808(Executions). As Court Painter he had to do Ferdinand VII's portrait, who ultimately stopped the proceedings initiated against the painter by the Inquisition for having signed immoral engravings and for painting the Maja Unclothed. Despite this gesture, the relationship between the king and the artist was not very good and neither one liked the other. The Spanish court appreciated minutely detailed portraits which Goya did not do because he used free and impasted brushstrokes. His position as the painter in vogue was taken by the Valencian Vicente López and Goya became more and more isolated and embittered. Various illnesses forced him to retire to his country house on the outskirts of Madrid, known in his lifetime as the Quinta del Sordo (the House of the Deaf Man) which he decorated with his most powerful and original work, the ["Black Paintings"#CUADROS#954], which reflect his fears, phantoms and madness. He lived with his housekeeper, Leocadia Zorrilla Weis, with whom he had a daughter, Rosario. His heir, Francisco Javier, was born from his marriage to Josepha Bayeu. Goya was increasingly dissatisfied with Ferdinand VII's autocratic monarchy and in 1824 he left for France, theoretically to take the waters at Plombières but actually to go Bordeaux, where a number of his exiled Liberal friends lived. Although he travelled to Madrid on various occasions, his final years were spent in Bordeaux, where he did his last painting, Milkmaid of Bordeaux, which anticipates Impressionism. Goya died in Bordeaux on the night of the 15th April 1828 at the age of eighty-two. Since 1919 his mortal remains have been buried under his frescos in the church of San Antonio de la Florida, although the head is missing. It would appear that the artist himself left it to a doctor to study.

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