|Antiques Digest||Browse Auctions||Appraisal||Antiques And Arts News||Home|
( Originally Published 1955 )
Giant among Spanish painters. Goya emerged from the moribund Spanish tradition of the Ancien Regime and through his paintings and etchings profoundly affected Western art from his day to the present, especially the divergent movements of impressionism and Expressionism. Goya was born in the small town of Fuendetodos and was first taught by his father, a master-gilder. After study in the academy of Jose Luxan in Zaragoza, he went to Madrid as an associate of Francisco Bayeu, a fellow townsman in the service of Raphael Mengs. Official Spanish painting of this era, in the absence of native 85. GOYA. Dun Manuel Garciu dc la Prada Des Moines Art Center, CoHin Memorial Collection talent of its former Golden Age, had relied on imported styles: the Baroque Italians Giordano and Tiepolo, a galaxy of French Rococo decorators and finally the Romanized Bohemian Mengs, who had imposed on Madrid a frigid NeoClassicism. When in 1766 he was rejected by the Madrid Academy for the second time, Goya went to Italy, where he won a competition in Parma. During the 1770's he returned to Zaragoza and was engaged in fresco work. He was also employed by the royal tapestry works of Madrid through the influence of Mengs and of the Bayeus, whose sister he married. The genre scenes he designed in this capacity show him to be a Rococo decorator in the style of the Venetians.
The following decade saw his complete conquest of the court of Carlos III; he became a court painter in 1786 and was named pintor de cĒmara by Carlos IV in 1789. In this period commenced his brilliant series of portraits, e,g., those for the Dukes of Osuna and Alba. He appears to have been stimulated in technique by the royal collection of Velazquez, Which he had been commissioned to copy in etching. This was a period of personal optimism, revealed in his letters, as he enjoyed his court associations and studied the liberal ideas of the Encyclopedists then current in Spanish intellectual circles. The 1790's marked the height of his official popularity; he was chosen president of the Royal Academy in 1795, first painter to the king in 1799. But this was also the beginning of an introversion brought on by illness (1792). long convalescence (1793) and resultant deafness. This is the period of his "silvery" style of painting and of his Caprichos. In the latter a gay Italian genre form was turned into biting satire on social mores, with an almost vicious doubleentendre. The frescoes of San Antonio de la Florida, Madrid, (1798) are his best big decorative commission before the Napoleonic invasion of 1808 which threw the Peninsula into years of war and confusion.
The death of his friend the Duchess of Alba (1802), of his wife (1811) and the horrors of the wars combined with his nervous affliction to embitter Goya. His dashing Rococo technique was converted into a ruthless naturalism in the drawings and etchings of his later career. A strongly expressionist manner, developed in planar chiaroscuro, gave his work a remarkably modern character. He also became at this point a stimulus to the European Romantic movement; he had turned the Rococo into Romanticism in Spain without the usual Neo-Classical intermezzo. These tendencies are realized in the Disasters of War and the Bull Fights, etchings of the period 1808-20. They have their counterpart on canvas in such works as the Executions of the Third of May (1814, Prado). His attitude in both series of etchings was that of a commentator, describing the spectacle first from one side and then from the other, allowing the images, with cryptic captions, to speak for themselves. These two purposes, that of bitter exposure of the foibles of man and that of universalizing his themes by use of popular allegory, come to their fruition in the Disparates (1819). This is a series of dream-proverb absurdities which weave the old Spanish adage, "La vida es suen"o"-and its converse: "To die is to awaken." Goya was out of sympathy with the restoration of Fernando VII in 1814 and he retired to a house in the country, La Quinta del Sordo. Here in fresco on the walls of his own home the Disparates were translated into pigment of a most radical chiaroscuro. In a painted world of horrors summoned up by his fertile imagination, the final conversion was made from the social masquerade of his early Rococo painting to the double-edged satire of his pessimistic personal imagery. In 1824 after the collapse of the Cortes he went into voluntary exile in Bordeaux.