Francisco José Goya y Lucientes (1746–1828), whose name sometimes includes the noble “de” that Goya himself used erratically, created well over 2,000 works during his long career, in various media, including fresco, oil, etching, lithography, ink, and chalk. As a young artist he competed unsuccessfully in competitions sponsored by the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (hereafter, the Academy) in 1763 and 1766, before travelling to Italy in 1769, where he remained until 1771. In 1775 he arrived in Madrid, charged with painting cartoons for the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Barbara. In 1780 he was admitted as a member of the Academy. Until 1793 his work was commissioned mainly by aristocrats seeking portraits or religious images, and more importantly by the Bourbon kings Charles III (reigned 1759–1788) and his son Charles IV (reigned 1789–1808), for whom Goya created designs for tapestries to adorn the royal residences, as well as portraits and altarpieces. From 1793 onward, more experimental works parallel Goya’s commissioned production, including drawings, small paintings on tinplate, canvas, wood, and ivory, as well as etchings (most famously, Los Caprichos, published in 1799). Though created without a commission, these works found an audience: contemporary inventories include paintings sometimes called Caprichos, and Goya’s advertisement for two series of etchings, the Caprichos and the Tauromaquia appeared in the Madrid newspaper in 1799 and 1816, respectively. In 1799, Goya was appointed First Court Painter—a title shared with Mariano Maella. The artist’s courtly world came to an abrupt end in 1808 when Napoleon convinced the Spanish monarchs and their heir to abdicate, and placed his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne. Although the years of Spain’s war against Napoleon (1808–1813) are generally equated with the series of etchings that would be published posthumously as Los Desastres de la Guerra (1863), the artist in fact continued painting portraits of both Spanish and French patrons, still lifes, allegories, and religious paintings. With the 1814 restoration of Ferdinand VII, Goya retained his position as First Court Painter, but received no commissions directly from the Spanish king. By 1819 he was experimenting with lithography—recently arrived in Madrid—and purchased a country house, known at the Quinta del Sordo, where he would paint in oil, directly on the plaster walls, the “Black” paintings—scenes inspired by myth, sorcery, and superstition. In 1824 Goya left Spain and traveled to France, and after a trip to Paris he settled in Bordeaux, where he continued to paint portraits of friends, draw, and exploit the technique of lithography in his unparalleled Bulls of Bordeaux. Retaining his title and his salary as court painter, Goya returned to Madrid twice before dying, in Bordeaux, in 1828. Scholarship on Goya is wide-ranging—from 19th-century biographies with little basis in fact, to essays on his paintings that became increasingly well-known in the early 20th century, to recent technical studies and exhibition catalogues.
Throughout the 19th century, Goya’s work gradually became known to a wider public. His prints circulated throughout Europe and also arrived to the United States; his religious paintings, often in situ, were seen in Madrid and less often in Zaragoza; and his major works, such as the Family of Carlos IV and the Second and Third of May 1808, as well as his cartoons for tapestries, entered the Prado Museum. But only after an exhibition in Madrid in 1900 brought paintings of his from private collections into public view and onto the art market did studies of the artist turn from an emphasis on biography to more historically grounded, analytical approaches to his works, patronage, and style. Von Loga 1921 (first published in 1903) introduced his series of mural paintings in the Charterhouse of Aula Dei, near Zaragoza, as well as correspondence related to a series of paintings sent in 1794 to his colleagues at the Academy. A painter and director of the Prado Museum, Beruete y Moret 1917, soon published an introduction to Goya’s paintings and techniques. The works cited here are characterized by their rejection of the myths surrounding the artists—ranging from Goya as a bullfighter to the artist as political revolutionary. Sánchez Cantón 1964 offers the earliest accessible and well-grounded overview in English; Bozal 1983 takes a more thematic approach, focusing on the artist’s invention. A decade would pass before Tomlinson 1999 provided a well-illustrated English language introduction to Goya’s works in all media, incorporating scholarship to date. Hughes 2003 offered a highly readable introduction to the artist’s life and major works for a general reader, drawing on recent English-language scholarship. A crucial addition to resources is the website Goya en el Prado (in Spanish), dedicated to Goya’s works as well as documents (including his personal correspondence) in the Prado Museum.
Beruete y Moret, Aureliano. Goya: Composiciones y figuras. Madrid: Blass, 1917.
Part two of Beruete’s astute analysis of Goya’s paintings in all media, this work offers the first in-depth discussion of the artist’s early religious paintings, tapestry cartoons, genre paintings, and history paintings. Available online from the Prado.
Bozal, Valeriano. Imagen de Goya. Barcelona: Editorial Lumen, 1983.
A discussion of Goya’s representations of his contemporary world, from his early tapestry cartoons to the etchings of Los disparates. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of print imagery in both Spain and 18th-century Europe, Bozal seeks to define the uniqueness of Goya’s “inventions.”
Inaugurated in October 2012, this essential website provides high-resolution images and full catalogue and bibliographic information on all paintings, prints, and drawings by Goya in the Prado Museum. The site also provides transcriptions and reproductions of the 118 letters to Martín Zapater in the Prado collection, as well as a chronology of the artist’s life and digitized versions of many early texts.
Hughes, Robert. Goya. New York: Alfred Knopf, 2003.
An introduction to the artist’s life and selected works, drawing mainly on English-language scholarship, enlivened by the author’s writing style and suppositions.
Sánchez Cantón, F. J. The Life and Works of Goya. Madrid: Editorial Peninsular, 1964.
Written by a director of the Prado Museum, this book offers the first important English-language overview and summary of research to date pertaining to Goya’s life and work.
Tomlinson, Janis A. Francisco Goya y Lucientes, 1746–1828. London: Phaidon, 1999.
A well-illustrated overview of the life and work of the artist, drawing on scholarship up to 1993. Originally published in 1994, the 1999 edition is only slightly revised.
Von Loga, Valerian. Francisco de Goya. 2d ed. Berlin: G. Grote’sche, 1921.
First published in 1903, this biography perpetuates some of the 19th-century myths. Draws on Goya’s correspondence, and includes Goya’s 1794 letters to Bernardo de Yriarte, documenting his earliest known series of uncommissioned paintings. The catalogue is the first to include the early paintings at the Charterhouse of Aula Dei in Zaragoza.
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