Francisco de Goya was born in Fuendetodos (Zaragoza) in 1746. He was a painter who witnessed The French Revolution, The Peninsular War and Fernando VII’s absolutism. He would be the precursor to new trends that emerged in the 19th century.
He began his training at 13 years old in the Drawing School of Zaragoza, under the instruction of José Luzán. He later trained with Francisco Bayeu, his brother-in-law, who would eventually take him to Madrid, where he worked on the decoration of the Royal Palace. Goya would try twice, unsuccessfully, to enter the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando.
After his rejection, he made for Italy, where he studied the works of Guido Reni, Rubens, Paolo Veronese, and Rafael. There, he also won a prize for his painting The victorious Hannibal seeing Italy from the Alps for the first Time.
After his return to Spain, he carried out his first commission, the frescoes on one of the cupolas in the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. After returning to Madrid, Goya was called by Mengs to work in the court as a tapestry cartoons painter for the Royal Tapestry Factory.
Important works were to come from this. They centred around Spanish customs and people and included The Snowstorm, The Injured Mason, and Dance on The Banks of Manzanares.
The works of Velázquez would be a source of inspiration for Goya in terms of light, perspective and naturalist drawing.
A standout work was his painting Crucified Christ, which enabled him to finally enter the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando.
He became a popular high-society portraitist with assistance from his friends The Infante Don Luis de Borbón, Jovellandos, Floridablanca, and the Dukes of Osuna.
Goya liked bullfighting, and he painted a series of bullfighting scenes such as Matador Killing the Bull and The Death of the Picador. In 1794 he recommenced his portrait work. He had the ability to capture the soul of individuals, as captured in his paintings of the family of Carlos IV, The Duchess of Alba, The Countess of Chinchón, Jovellanos, and Moratín.
He was one of the great etching masters and mastered all its techniques. He created several wonderful series of etchings between 1778 and 1825. In The Caprichos series, he spread the Enlightenment ideology and made a social critique of the injustices of the time. The two Maja paintings also come from this period.
The War of Independence would be portrayed in two of his masterpieces, The Second of May 1808, or The Charge of the Mamelukes, who were Egyptian mercenaries that fought alongside the French army; and The Third of May 1808, where he depicts Spanish people being shot by French soldiers.
His extreme deafness would show in his paintings, as seen in the Villa of the Death Man, where he created various wall paintings that possess an enormous expressive force that borders on abstraction. These include The Dog, The Witches’ Sabbath, Saturn Devouring His Son and Fight with Cudgels, the last of which may have represented the fratricidal fighting among the Spanish people.
At 78 years old, he decided to exile in France, where many of his friends also were, and he died in Bordeaux in 1828.