The Life of Francisco Goya

The Life of Francisco Goya

Nobody was deafer than Goya to the 19th century, despite having served almost three decades in it and surviving its fierce wars. He was truly deaf when the century dawned, but not blind. And by looking at his air he became a visionary. That complete, lucid, and pugnacious man conceived the nightmares that we believe to be our own, settled in a provincial Versailles and an Enlightenment of a people. The eighteenth-century and channeled Spain that he had to live was worth everything and nothing. His stubbornness and verve were his heritage; With such saddlebags he jumped from his childhood to the childhood of the avant-garde, who in the 20th century claimed him as a teacher. No one yet explains this rare phenomenon: he was a painter and a solitary prophet who came from ancient times until now without going through history.

Francisco de Goya was born in the year 1746, in Fuendetodos, a town in the Spanish province of Zaragoza, the son of a giver of Basque origin, José, and a peasant farmer named Gracia Lucientes. The family was approaching in the Zaragoza capital, the young Francisco entered to learn the profession of painter in the routine of José Luzán , where he spent four years copying prints until he decided to settle on his own and, as he later wrote himself, “painting of my invention”.

As the years of his long life went by, this “painting of my invention” became truer and more accentuated, because without neglecting the well-paid commissions that allowed him a comfortable existence, Goya drew and made to print series of unusual images and capricious, whose ultimate meaning, often ambiguous, corresponds to a very personal fantasy and an ideological commitment, akin to the principles of the Enlightenment, which were engines of a tireless satire of the customs of his time.

But before his trip to Italy in 1771, Goya’s art is stammering and so little academic that it does not obtain any endorsement or success; he even failed miserably in the two competitions called by the Academia de San Fernando in 1763 and 1769. The compositions of his paintings were inspired, through the engravings at his disposal, by old masters such as Simon Vouet , Carlo Maratta or Correggio , but on his return from Rome, an obligatory stopover for the learning of every artist, he will undergo a very interesting evolution already present in the fresco of the Pillar of Zaragoza entitled The Glory of the Name of God .

Still in this first stage, Goya deals more with the nightly francachelas in the Madrid bars and the old and shameless majas than with taking care of his professional reputation, and he hardly paints some commissions that come from his Bayeu friends . Of the three painters brothers (Ramón, Manuel and Francisco Bayeu), the last one, who was twelve years older than him, was his inseparable companion and protector. Their sister was also Josefa, with whom he married in Madrid in June 1773, a decisive year in the painter’s life because a new period of greater solidity and originality was inaugurated in him.

By those same dates he paints the first self-portrait that we know him, and there is no shortage of art historians who suppose that he did it on the occasion of his weddings. In him he appears as what he always was: a stubborn, challenging and sensual man. The careful styling of the long black locks indicates coquetry; his clear forehead, his clear intelligence; her deep dark eyes, unheard of determination and bravery; plump lips, a hypocritical fondness for voluptuous pleasures; and all this framed in a round, large face, with a bulky nose and visible dewlap.

Cardboard maker of the Tapestry Factory

A short time later, something more serious with his work and a regular at the neoclassical gathering chaired by Leandro Fernández de Moratín , in which the largest and most French-speaking geniuses of his generation were present, was commissioned to design cardboard for the Royal Factory of Tapestries from Madrid, a genre where he could develop with relative freedom, to the point that the 63 compositions of this type made between 1775 and 1792 constitute the most suggestive of his production of those years. Perhaps the first one carried out is the one known as Snack on the banks of the Manzanares , with an original and popular theme that announces a series of lively, funny and realistic paintings: The fight in the New Sale , The swing ,The sunshade and, above all, back in 1786 or 1787, The wounded bricklayer .

The latter, of a very narrow and tall format, a condition imposed for decorative reasons, represents two bricklayers moving a wounded colleague, probably after the fall of a scaffold. The matter coincides with a demand for the manual worker, at the time almost less widely seen than beggars by enlightened thinkers. Against this prejudice, the Count of Romanones had expressed himself in 1774, stating that “it is necessary to erase all dishonor from the offices, only laziness should contract vileness.” Likewise, an edict of 1784 requires damages to the master builder in the event of an accident, establishes rules for the prudent erection of scaffolding, threatens jail and heavy fines in case of negligence of those responsible, and indicates financial aid to the victims and their families. Goya cooperates, then,

The sunshade (1776-78, Museo del Prado)

Around 1776, Goya received a salary of 8,000 reais for his work for the Royal Tapestry Factory. He lives at number 12 on Madrid’s Calle del Espejo and has two children; the first, Eusebio Ramón, born on December 15, 1775, and another recently born, Vicente Anastasio. From this date we can follow his biography almost year by year. In April 1777, he was the victim of a serious illness that was about to end his life, but he recovered happily and soon received orders from the prince himself, the future Charles IV. In 1778, the etchings made by the artist were made public, copying paintings by Velázquez , a painter whom he studied in detail in the Royal Collection and from whom he will take some of his amazing resources and memorable colors in future works.

Court painter

The following year he unsuccessfully applied for the position of first chamber painter, a position that was finally granted to an artist ten years his senior, Mariano Salvador Maella . In 1780, when Josefa conceived a new son of Goya, Francisco de Paula Antonio Benito, he entered the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando with the painting Christ on the Cross , which is currently kept by the Prado Museum in Madrid, and meet the greatest supporter of the enlightened Spain of that time, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, with whom he will be united by a close friendship until the latter’s death in 1811. On December 2, 1784, the only one of his surviving sons, Francisco Javier, was born, and on March 18 of the following year he was appointed deputy director of painting for the San Fernando Academy. Finally, on June 25, 1786, Goya and Ramón Bayeu obtained the title of painters of the king with an interesting salary of 15,000 reales a month.

At his forty years, the one who is now known throughout Madrid as Don Paco has become an accomplished portraitist, and all the doors of the palaces and some, more secret, of the bedrooms of his rich inhabitants have been opened for him, like the Duchess of Alba, for whom she experiences a fiery devotion. Impenitent fan of bullfighting, he is flattered when the most outstanding slaughterers, Pedro Romero, Pepe-Hillo and others, offer him their chores, and even happier when on April 25, 1789 he is favored with the appointment of chamber painter of the new kings Carlos IV and doña María Luisa de Parma .

Illness and isolation

But a short time later, in the winter of 1792, he fell seriously ill in Seville. During that year he suffered the unspeakable; After months of prostration, he began to recover, but, as a consequence of the disease, he had lost hearing. In addition, he was struggling and had some problems with balance and vision. He would recover in part, but deafness would be irreversible for life.

History has repeatedly speculated about what Goya’s disease was. The doctors (he was treated by the best doctors at the time) did not agree on the diagnosis. Some blamed the disease on venereal disease, others on thrombosis, others on Menière syndrome, which is linked to problems with balance and hearing. Also, more recently, it has been believed that he may have been poisoned with some of the components of the paints he used.

Then, a new artistic stage for Goya began. Due to hearing loss and the consequences of the serious illness he had suffered, the teacher had to adapt to a new type of life. He did not diminish, despite what has been said on occasions, his productive capacity or his creative genius. He kept painting and would still make great masterpieces of art history. The loss of hearing capacity would open, without a doubt, the doors of a new pictorial universe. The serious communication and relationship problems caused by deafness would also cause Goya to initiate a process of introversion and isolation. The pessimism, the representation of a deformed reality and the grotesque nuance of some of his later paintings are, in fact,

Due to obvious health problems, Goya had to resign as director of painting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, in 1797. A year later he himself confessed that he was unable to take care of the duties of his profession at the Royal Tapestry Factory for being so deaf that he had to communicate gesturing.

Majas and Caprichos

From the childhood years, in the Pious Schools of Zaragoza, where Goya passed without pain or glory, he linked the painter an intimate friendship, which would survive until death, with Martín Zapater, to whom he often wrote letters where he recorded details of its economy and other personal and private matters. Thus, in an epistle dated in Madrid on August 2, 1794, he mentions, albeit modestly, the most playful and ardent of his sentimental relationships: “You had better come to help me paint Alba’s, which I got into yesterday the studio to have her face painted, and she got away with it; by the way I like painting on canvas more, which I have to portray in full length too. “

On June 9, 1796, the Duke of Alba died, and in that same spring Goya moved to Sanlúcar de Barrameda with the Duchess of Alba , with whom he spent the summer, and returned there again in February 1797. During this time, he made the so-called Album A , with drawings of everyday life, where portraits of the graceful Dona Cayetana are often identified. The magnanimous duchess signs a will by which Javier, the artist’s son, will receive for life a total of ten reales a day.

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