Francisco de Goya, father of Impressionism, Expressionism and Surrealism. In fact father of Contemporary painting and current artists.
Francisco de Goya is my favorite painter, it’s not a secret. I’ve been admiring Francisco de Goya’s paintings from my childhood and every time I go to the Prado Museum or to the Museum of Fine Arts in Madrid, I discover a new facet, idea, irony… in his works. A master!
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He was born in a little village in the Northeast of Spain, Fuendetodos, in 1746. Son of a Baroque artist, he started to paint in a Baroque style: Still life, religious topics, some frescoes… It was in Madrid under the influence of Anton Mengs when he embraced the Neoclassic movement, briefly, because Goya was not a man willing to obey any strict rule, neither the Academics rule of San Fernando. His relationship with Mengs was always problematic and, tired, he moved to Italy to learn and to be free (interesting his diaries of that trip). When he returned to Madrid, he got a job at the Royal Tapestry Factory, he must design simple cardboards that would serve for the manufacture of carpets. Again problems, again he was incapable of obeying the rules and his designs were too complicate for a carpet. Nevertheless, he started to portrait important people: Count of Floridablanca (a favorite of king Carlos III of Spain), Duke and Duchess of Osuna… These portraits became famous by their delicate tonalities and in 1789 he was made Court painter.
A satire of the royal members is the giant portrait called ‘Carlos IV and his family’. Based on Las Meninas by Velazquez, Goya painted with defiance to reveal the corruption present under the absolutist king Carlos IV. He was a man of the Enlightenment and a lot of his paintings should see under this mentality: a strong critic of Inquisition, illiteracy and old social habits. However, when Napoleon conquered Spain, Goya will start to live in a gap: French Enlightenment or patriotism? Bad times: war (‘Executions of the Moncloa’) and a personal illness that left Goya deaf. He became introspective and his irony turned into dreams of monsters and unreal places, predating a century Surrealism artists as Salvador Dali (awesome his bitter series of aquatinted etchings, published in 1799 under the title ‘Caprichos’).
After Napoleon’s defeat, Goya was in troubles. His relation with the new king, Fernando VII, was problematic; his wife Josefa died and his new couple, Leocadia Zorrilla, didn’t satisfy him. Closed at home, he painted ‘The Black Paintings’, precedent of the strongest Expressionism movement, as terrible as ‘The Scream’ by Edward Munch. Meanwhile, he kept on experimenting with new techniches: the print series of La Tauromaquia depicting scenes from bullfighting, and probably the etchings of Los Disparates.
In the end, he could move to Bourdeaux (France), far of Spain and its internal political fights. There, he painted ‘The Milkmaid of Bourdeaux’ (1825-1827) with free strokes, loose, made to the retina of the viewer create the forms: an incipient Impressionism.
A long life, he died of a stroke in 1828, at the age of 82 in Bordeaux. In 1919, his remains were transferred to the Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida in Madrid and buried under the beautiful frescoes of the dome he had painted.