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Francisco Goya – Father of Modern Art

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.

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