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Francisco Goya

A great artist

Francisco Goya, an emblematic figure in Spanish and international painting, is admired for his artistic genius. However, behind his masterly works lies a complex reality rooted in the political turmoil of his time. To better appreciate Goya's work, it is essential to place it in the political context of the 18th and 19th centuries, a period marked by major upheavals in Spain and Europe. Who governed Spain in Goya's time? What political and social events influenced his artistic vision?

His biography

Francisco de Goya (1746 - 1828), the Spanish deaf artist, is regarded as one of the most influential artists of modern Spain, second only to Diego Velázquez. A deaf man, he developed a highly personal, dark and tormented art, marked by violence and madness, which is considered a precursor of Romanticism.

Born into a large middle-class family in the Zaragoza region, Goya grew up with his father, a renowned craftsman and master gilder. Despite his humble beginnings, he attended a drawing academy where his teacher, a Baroque painter and collector of engravings, gave him invaluable support. His quarrelsome and flirtatious nature did not go unnoticed in his youth.

Although his early works, probably religious paintings, are little known, Goya overcame initial difficulties to break into the art world. Unlucky in competitions and unable to obtain a travel grant, he travelled to Italy on his own at the end of the 1760s, where he discovered the works of the great Italian artists, especially those of Caravaggio, who had a profound influence on him.

On his return to Zaragoza in 1771, Goya received his first religious and monumental commissions. Thanks to his connections, he joined the court and settled in Madrid. His style, although constrained by a certain classicism, introduced new elements dealing with popular and gallant themes. His career was marked by a disabling illness, still poorly diagnosed, which left him deaf.

In the 1780s, Goya's career developed significantly. He attracted the attention of King Charles III, becoming his official painter, and later that of Charles IV. In 1799, he was appointed first painter to the Spanish court, marking his consecration. He fought for artistic freedom at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.

After Napoleon's invasion of Spain in 1808, Goya became politically active. In line with French revolutionary ideals, he condemned war crimes and produced the famous series of engravings 'The Disasters of War' (1810 - 1815). Because of his deafness, his art became increasingly introspective, marked by the anguish and history of his country, criticising the Inquisition and religious fanaticism.

Goya left Spain for France and settled in Bordeaux, where he died in 1828. His body now lies in Madrid.


1. What themes marked Goya's artistic period after his return from Italy in 1771, and how did his style develop during this period?

2. What are the outstanding features of Goya's art as a result of his deafness?

3. How did Goya overcome the initial difficulties of his artistic career?

4. What famous series of engravings did Goya produce after Napoleon's invasion of Spain?

5. Where did Francisco de Goya settle after leaving Spain and where did he die?