Francisco Goya Biography

Francisco Goya




Francisco Goya was a Spanish painter and printmaker who used the etching medium to create some of the most powerful and compelling images ever done. Both revered and despised by Spain at a time when its religious, social, and political climates hung in the balance, Goya's various series spoke out blatantly against the enormous injustices he witnessed; and though he displayed a quiet, sorrowful air in his work, his prints often put his own life in danger.

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes was born on March 30, 1746 in Fuendetodos, Aragon, Spain. He began studying painting at age 14 and later moved to Madrid to study with painter Anton Raphael Mengs. He married Josepha Baye in 1773. The couple's life together was characterised by an almost constant series of pregnancies and miscarriages. He became a court painter to the Spanish Crown in 1786 and this early portion of his career is marked by portraits of the Spanish aristocracy.

Living in a world that changed drastically and often, his works catalogue an ever-growing bitterness toward his country, during the Napleonic occupation of Spain and the revitalization of the Spanish Inquisition, in particular. His youth was spent in traditional school; he went on to apprentice under Jose Luzan, Tiepolo, and Mengs. His career as an artist would be expansive: designing tapestries at the Royal Tapestry Workshop for over 5 years, painting frescoes of the various landmarks and cloisters, doing portraiture for Spain's royalty. A canvas he painted for the altar at the Church of San Francisco El Grande led to his membership at the Royal Academy of Fine Art.

Goya's introduction to printmaking began at the beginning of the 1790s, following an illness that left him mostly deaf. The sudden detachment from daily social life was perhaps what led to his close inspection of the world he was living in. Goya had an affinity to the etchings of Marcantonio Raimondi and Velazquez and, while many of his contemporaries saw folly in Goya's attempts to copy and emulate them, he had access to a wide range of the long-dead printmakers' works that had been contained in the royal collection. Soon he had created the first of his famous etched series, the Caprichos. Originally done in 1799, it marks the beginning of a haunting, yet sometimes humorous, observation of a decaying country, reflecting his own grief and bitterness.

Although he did not make known his intention when creating the aquatint plates of The Disasters of War in the 1810s, art historians view them as a visual protest against the violence of the 1808 'Dos de Mayo Uprising', the subsequent Peninsular War and the setbacks to the liberal cause following the resoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1814. The scenes are singularly disturbing, sometimes macabre in their depiction of battlefield horror, and represent an outraged conscience in the face of death and destruction. They were not published until 1863, 35 years after his death. It is likely that only then was it considered politically safe to distribute a sequence of artworks criticising both the French and restored Bourbons

Tormented by a dread of old age and fear of madness, the latter possibly from anxiety caused by an undiagnosed illness that left him deaf from the early 1790s, Francisco Goya eventually moved to Bordeaux, France, where he would stay until his death on April 4, 1828, at the age of 82.