Francisco Goya


     With
the coronation of the two Catholic rulers, Ferdinand and Isabella in 1479, the
country of Spain slowly began to unite. Piece by piece, the King and Queen
recaptured once lost lands and built their empire. In 1516 Carlos V rose to
power, establishing the Hapsburg reign. The Hapsburg ruled for nearly two
hundred years until the death of Charles II. With him died a Golden Age for

Spain that the Catholic rulers established. Spain fell into a time of mass
poverty, disorganization, and lackadaisical rule. One force that was structured
in Spain was the church. Catholicism was not only a religion in Spain but also a
significant influence in society. At the time, however, it did little to improve
the conditions. Classes were heavily lopsided. The middle class was almost
non-existent, and the upper class monopolized agricultural land. The provinces
of Aragon, La Mancha, and Castile were where most of the poverty and depression
was concentrated. Costal cities like Cadiz and Madrid were where prosperity
existed. In the midst of commencing political and aristocratic turmoil, was born
one of the most talented and patriotically concerned artists Spain has ever
seen. On March 30, 1745 in the rural town of Fuendetodos, Francisco Jose de Goya
y Lucientes was born. He was born poor and at the fall of the Hapsburg Monarchy.

Goya’s father was the son of a notary, or a small time lawyer, and his mother

Dona Gracia Lucientes, was a hidalgo. Hidalgos were the lowest order in Spanish
nobility. Goya Pg2 was still a boy when he and his family moved to the city of

Saragossa. Saragossa contained more life than the rural city of Fuendetodos.

Here he began school, where he barely learned to read and write. After attending
elementary school, Francisco went to a Jesuit school or "college". It was
here where the foundation of his career was laid. It was recommended that he
develop his natural skills in drawing. A local master painter, named Jose Luzan
y Martinez, took Goya under his wing. Martinez was a typical third rank painter
of that time, but was well respected in the city. Goya began learning to paint
the human figure by copying sculptures and molds. The drawing of naked models
was forbidden at that time. By this point Goya showed himself as a fine copyist,
and able to adapt quickly to other peoples’ styles. Goya’s first commission
was the painting of the church doors at Fuendentodos. This project confirmed his
profession. When he saw the painting some 50 years later he exclaimed, "

Don’t say I painted those!" At age 17 Goya went to test himself in a larger
and more demanding area, Madrid. Another individual who had a profound impact on

Goya’s life and art was Velazquez. Velazquez was a painter of Spain’s pride
and power –a superb realist. Although Velazquez had an influence on Goya’s
artistic style, his art is distinctly different from that of his predecessor.

Velazquez’s paintings depicted absolute and precise figures. Most of Goya’s
work, other than portraits, was noticeably distorted. These were times of
confusion and despair, which would serve as artistic topics for Goya’s work.

The other half of his work is strictly his reaction and response to Pg3
surrounding occurrences. Perhaps nobody depicted mortal’s thoughts and actions
better than Goya. He combined his personal thoughts and the thoughts of the
character in the painting so they either contrasted or became one. Goya used
this devise of altering human characteristics as a way to undermine politicians
and aristocrats without confrontation. A prime example of this is in the
portrait of the family of Charles the IV. Charles IV was a Bourbon King who was
later deposed by Napoleon. This portrait is at the pivotal point of Goya’s
career. The public Goya and the private Goya, usually rigidly separated were
briefly allowed to merge. As Goya was at the center of the social scene by this
point, he was very aware of the history, people and events of his time. He
depicts the characters and family members as he sees them, weak, sheltered, and
cocky. The clothing and costumes on the people describe their rank in society,
however their faces portray a lack of power and character. As he did in life,
the King stands to one side and his face is that of an uncertain oaf. Queen

Maria Luisa stands in the middle of the painting with a double chin and her
expression is crude, almost vulgar. Her arms were something that she was proud
of in life. She was proud of their thickness and strength but Goya paints them
to look almost gross. The daughter is depicted as pleasant (Goya idolized
children’s innocence), and uncorrupted, although her dress is similar to her
mothers. This illustrates the brainwashing of youthful nobility, and their lack
of independence. Other relatives are positioned behind the King which is perhaps
in Pg4 mitation of Velazquez’ invention in the masterpiece Las Meninas. These
depictions went unnoticed, and while Goya never painted for the King and Queen
again, it was not because they were dissatisfied. He got away with it and went
on to fulfill other artistic desires. What is extraordinary about this portrait
is that it borders a thin line between levels of understanding. Goya found a
median at which he could satisfy someone’s expectations while fulfilling his
own artistic thoughts. At first glance or even scrupulous examination, someone
who is ignorant of the techniques being used sees only a picture of a royal
portrait. Somewhat of a different style and theme is showed in The Shooting on

Principe Pio Mountain. A more free brush technique is used here and the faces
and figures in the picture are more abstract, less detailed. The shooters are
anonymous and they doggedly obey orders by killing the suspects lined up in
front of them. In the center of the painting is a Spanish commoner who has his
arms raised and his face is that of despair, horror, and hopelessness. This
event (one of many that were similar) was a significant moment in Spanish
history. French firing squads patrolled through Spain as guerrillas (little
wars) broke out over the land. Goya painted the picture six years later, and had
mixed feelings about it. His love for Spain is shown in all of his work, however
he was an admirer of the French Enlightenment. This painting shows a difference
and gradual change in Goya’s style. The brush strokes are much more scratchy
and not as delicate as Pg5 previous works. It was possibly painted with more
passion and thus the reason for the more symbolic tone and not realistic. Goya
could be considered one of the most talented artists of his time and without
question he is. However what is to be merited is influence and understanding of

Spain and her people. A true artist, or painter in this case, can put thoughts
onto canvas forcing the observer to look beyond the jewels and ranks of royalty.

They can tell a characters life story or thoughts with miniscule variations in
facial and body language. Goya did these things to perfection and should be
regarded as one of the great minds of Spanish culture.