Francisco Goya (1746 – 1828) was a Spanish painter and printmaker. He is considered the most important Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and throughout his long career was a court painter to the Spanish Crown. His portraits, landscapes, and history paintings are among the best in Western art, while his cartoons and satires express his biting wit. Goya has been called “the first of the moderns”, due to his break with the norms of classical painting in favor of an expressive realism that anticipated elements of 20th-century art.
Goya was born in Fuendetodos, Aragon, Spain, on 30 March 1746 to José Benito de Goya y Franque and Gracia de Lucientes y Salvador. His family had moved that year from the city of Zaragoza, but there is no record why. José was the son of a notary and of Basque heritage, while Gracia’s father, Francisco Lucientes, was a gilder from Asturias. Both families had converted to Catholicism in the 16th century. Goya was baptized on 6 April 1746. His father died of typhus six months later.
Goya’s mother was left a widow with seven children, three of whom died in infancy. Goya grew up surrounded by death. One of his sisters, Ana, also died when she was seven years old. Goya was then educated at home by his remaining sister, Antonia, and by a priest. He showed an early talent for art but his mother discouraged him, saying that painting was “a trade for paupers”.
At the age of 14, Goya began studying under the painter Antonio González Velázquez at his workshop in Zaragoza. He was not an easy pupil; Velázquez described him as “stubborn and recalcitrant”. Goya arrived in Madrid in 1763, at the age of 17, to study with Francesco Antonio Zuccarelli, a Venetian painter who specialized in religious subjects. He lived at the Argüelles palace with other students, and while there he completed his first known paintings: a self-portrait and a still life.
In 1766, Goya moved to the workshop of José Antonio da Silva, a Portuguese painter who specialized in flower painting. Goya foundda Silva’s workshop unsatisfactory and returned to Zaragoza the following year. He then spent several months in London, where he studied with Anton Raphael Mengs at the Royal Academy of Arts.
In 1771, Goya returned to Madrid. He painted religious paintings for churches, including one of Santa Rufina for the church of San Juan Bautista in Pontevedra. He also painted a number of portraits, including one of the Marchioness of Valdeterrazo, which brought him to the attention of the Spanish royal family.
In 1773, Goya was appointed painter to the Infante Luis Antonio, brother of King Charles III. He painted portraits of the Infante and his family, as well as hunting scenes and illustrations of bullfights. He also painted a number of landscapes in the province of Segovia.
In 1774, Goya married Josefa Bayeu, sister of Francisco Bayeu y Subías, another painter at the royal court. The couple had five children, only one of whom, Francisco, survived to adulthood.
In 1775, Goya was commissioned to paint a series of tapestries for the royal palace in Madrid. The subjects were scenes from the life of Apollo, and the paintings were well-received. Goya’s reputation as a painter was now firmly established.
In 1786, Goya was appointed first court painter by Charles III. He painted portraits of the royal family, and also some landscapes and history paintings.
In 1792, Goya’s wife Josefa died of complications from childbirth. Goya was deeply saddened by her death, and painted a number of works inspired by her memory, including the “Black Paintings” of the “Maja Desnuda” and the “Maja Vestida”.
In 1799, Goya was struck by a sudden illness which left him deaf. He withdrew from society, and became increasingly reclusive. He continued to paint, however, and produced some of his most famous works during this period, including the “Caprichos” and the “Disasters of War”.
In 1824, Goya was made an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. He died in Bordeaux in 1828, at the age of 82.
Goya was a prolific artist, and his works can be found in museums all over the world. He is considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time.