Francisco Goya1746 - 1828
Born: March 30, 1746, Fuendetodos, Spain
Died: April 16, 1828, Bordeaux, France
Francisco Goya, sometimes thought of as the first "modern" artist, was born in a small town in Spain's Aragon province to working class parents in 1746. Although legends persist about an unfortunate childhood in poverty, his parents were actually members of the Spanish lower nobility, and his father was granted a job promotion as a master gilder in the town of Zaragoza in 1760, which allowed the young Goya to obtain a solid education at a school taught by Piarist priests. Upon leaving school, Goya spent about four years studying drawing and painting in the Zaragoza workshop of Jose Lujan. While there, he mostly copied prints of Italian masterpieces, reportedly becoming quite bored by the task, but the practice provided him with valuable skill in drafting. He also met his future brothers-in-law, Francisco and Ramon Bayeu, at Lujan's studio; the two men would become significant colleagues in the course of Goya's later career. Goya married the Bayeus' sister Josefa in 1773.
After completing his training with Lujan, Goya made his way to Madrid in 1763. Entering original paintings in contests there, Goya met with several failures, not bringing even an honorable mention from any juries he exhibited before. He soon traveled on to Italy, where he realized moderate success at an exhibition in Parma, winning an honorable mention from the judges there. By 1771, however, he had returned to Zaragoza.
The return to Zaragoza turned out to be quite profitable for Goya; his first commission came from the church there, where he painted a fresco in the Basilica of Pilar. This work essentially launched Goya's career, and he spent the next few years painting religious buildings throughout Aragon.
After 1774, the Bayeus helped Goya obtain royal commissions from King Charles III in Madrid, and the painter was obligated to spend more than ten years painting tapestry "cartoons" (sketches after which tapestries were woven). In the course of creating approximately 63 cartoons, Goya's personal style began to emerge, as he stretched the limits of the medium. He began to dislike painting the cartoons and stopped doing so in the late 1780s. By this time, however, he had become King Charles IV's personal painter.
Goya contracted a debilitating sickness in 1792 that would leave him permanently deaf but also mark a turning point in his career. Because he required nearly two years to recover from his illness, Goya was free to paint subjects of his choice, without interruption from royal commissions. He began painting and engraving daring works that critiqued Spanish upper-class society and explored dark "romantic" themes, essentially anticipating Romanticism. Goya continued to paint societal commentaries throughout the 1790s, simultaneously working on royal portrait commissions that helped him keep the favor of the court. Political turmoil ravaged Spain in the early decades of the nineteenth century, and though Goya managed to weather several storms (including the years of Napoleonic rule between 1808 and 1812) without falling into royal disfavor, the artist finally fled his home country when the repressive King Fernando VII reinstated the Spanish Inquisition in 1813. Spending the remaining years of his life in Bordeaux, France, where many Spanish exiles had settled, Goya continued to create art, even learning lithography, despite his worsening physical disabilities. At age eighty-two, he fell ill for the final time, passing away in Bordeaux. In 1901, his remains were carried back to his homeland and re-interred in Madrid.