Monthly Archives: August 2011

Francisco Goya – Father of Modern Art

22 August 2011

One of the most influential figures in Spanish art, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes was born

in Fuendetodos, Aragon, in 1746 to José Benito de Goya y Franque and Gracia de Lucientes y

Salvador. He spent his childhood in Fuendetodos. At the age of 17 he went to Madrid where he

studied with Anton Raphael Mengs, a painter who was popular with Spanish royalty. In 1763 and

1766 Goya submitted entries for the Royal Academy of Fine Art, but he failed. Then he decided to

move to Rome, where in 1771 he won second prize in a painting competition organized by the City

of Parma. Later that year, he returned to Zaragoza and painted parts of the cupolas of the Basilica

of the Pillar. He studied with Francisco Bayeu, a painter who influenced early style of Goya. Goya

married Bayeu’s sister Josefa on 25 July 1773.

Influenced by the paintings of Velásquez and Rembrandt, Goya created several frescoes which

were used to decorate the bare stone walls of El Escorial and the Palacio del Prado. He also

painted a canvas for the altar of the Church of San Francisco El Grande in Madrid, which led to his

appointment as a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Art. He also worked on several tapestry

cartoons depicting Spanish life. In 1786, Goya was given a salaried position as painter to Charles

III. One of his paintings from this time, Marquesa de Pontejos, is on display in the National Gallery

in Washington, D.C. In 1789 he was made court painter to Charles IV and in 1799 he was appointed

First Court Painter.

In 1793, a serious illness left Goya deaf. In that hard time, he dedicated himself to experimental

art that encompassed paintings, drawings as well as a bitter series of aquatinted etchings. When his

wife Josefa died in 1812, he was processing the Peninsular War of 1808–1814 by painting The Charge

of the Mamelukes and The Third of May 1808, and preparing the series of prints later known as The

Disasters of War. Goya’s late works became quite dark in mood. The Nude Maja and The Clothed

Maja are two of Goya’s best known paintings. They depict the same woman in the same pose, naked

and clothed. The painting was “the first totally profane life-size female nude in Western art”.

At the age of 75, alone and in mental and physical despair, he completed the work Saturn

Devouring His Son (as one of his 14 Black Paintings). It was executed in oil directly onto the

plaster walls of his house. Some 50 years after his death the painting (with other Goya’s Black

Paintings) was taken down and transferred to a canvas support. Today these paintings are on

permanent display at the Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Goya developed his own distinctive style of painting. Because of his idea that the artist’s personal

vision had more importance than his subject Goya was called “the first of the moderns.” His work

has greatly influenced and inspired other artists. He is one of the greatest masters that Spain has

ever had and is considered the “Father of Modern Art”.

In the sunset of his life, Goya moved to France. He died in Bordeaux in 1828 at the age of 82.

Great master Diego Velázquez

18 August 2011

Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez was born in 1599 in Seville, the first child of Juan Rodriguez de Silva and Jeronima Velázquez. Showing an early gift for art, Velázquez started his apprenticeship with Francisco de Herrera, but a short while later (in 1611) his father put him with Francisco Pacheco, who had good contacts in the royal court, among poets and artists. Velázquez remained in Pacheco’s school for five years, studying proportion and perspective. On April 23, 1618, Velázquez married Pacheco’s daughter – Juana Pacheco, who bore his 2 daughters, of whom unfortunately only one, Francisca, survived.

The first portraits and religious compositions executed by Velázquez in Seville before 1622 include: Old Woman Frying Eggs, Three Men at Table, The Waterseller in Seville, Mother Jeronima de la Fuente, The Adoration of the Magi. In 1622, Velázquez visited Madrid for the first time to see its art treasures, and to make useful contacts; then he went to Toledo to see works by El Greco and other painters of that city.

When the king’s favorite court painter dies, the powerful Prime Minister, Count-Duke of Olivares, offers this position to Diego Velázquez. When he completes the portrait of king Philip IV, both the king and Olivares are pleased. Diego Velázquez gets the job of court painter, becomes the only artist permitted to paint the king and moves to Madrid. Unfortunately, many of king’s portraits are lost. However, The Museo del Prado has two of Velázquez’s portraits of the king (nos. 1070 and 1071).

In 1628, Peter Paul Rubens came to the court in Madrid on diplomatic business. They became friends and Rubens persuaded Velázquez to go to Italy. During his first trip to Italy (1629-30), Velázquez visited Genoa, Venice (where he saw the work of Titian, who effected him more strongly than any other artist), Florence, and Rome. He copied old masters, but also painted large compositions of his own paintings: The Forge of Vulcan and Joseph’s Bloody Coat to Jacob.

During his second visit to Rome (1649-1651) Velázquez, among other pictures, painted the famous portrait of Pope Innocent X. The Anglo-Irish painter Francis Bacon found Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X to be one of the greatest portraits ever made. He created several expressionist variations of this painting in the 1950s. In 1650 Velázquez also painted a portrait of his servant. Now this painting is in the Metropilitan Museum of Art in New York City.

As an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, Diego Velázquez was important as a portrait artist. One of his most significant work, Las Meninas, was created four years before his death. It serves as an outstanding example of the European baroque period of art. The question which interests most of viewers is who indeed is a subject of the painting. Is it the royal daughter, or perhaps the painter himself? In looking at the various viewpoints of the painting it is unclear as to who or what is the true subject. Maybe the King and Queen are they the subject of Velazquez’s work. We will never know…La Venus del espejo (English: Venus at the Mirror) is the only surviving female nude by Velázquez.

Velázquez felt strong enough to be himself and develop his own principles of art. He is often considered a father of the Spanish school of art. His baroque academic style was admired by many painters. Pablo Picasso recreated Las Meninas in 58 variations, in his characteristically cubist form. Salvador Dalí, as with Picasso in anticipation of the tercentennial of Velázquez’s death, created in 1958 a work entitled Velázquez Painting the Infanta Margarita With the Lights and Shadows of His Own Glory.

The great Spanish painter Diego Velázquez died in the palace in Madrid on August 6, 1660.