Life of Goya





Life of 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