Author(s): Sarah Symmons
This is a study of Francisco Goya (1746-1828), the Spanish painter and graphic artist whose work ranges from elegant and opulent royal portraits to dark depictions of horror and evil. Goya's career was a great triumph in the history of Spanish art. The son of a peasant craftsman from rural Aragon had, by the age of 40 infiltrated the most exclusive aristocracy in Western Europe, becoming court painter to the Kings of Spain. But behind his glittering portrayals of the royal family and figures of state was another world of beggars, madmen, convicts, giants and cripples: the inhabitants of the artist's private obsessions. His art expressed the full range of human experience and he became known in his lifetime as "the philosopher painter". Goya's mastery of almost every graphic technique, from tapestry cartoons to lithographs, gave him a range of pictorial clarity and expression that was at once profound, diverting and subversive. This book places Goya within the context of his Spanish heritage, traces the immense influence of his work throughout Europe and considers the continued relevance of his art in the 20th century.
It draws on the most recent scholarship and on re-discovered works to create a comprehensive portrait of this most complex and enigmatic of artists.
An unpromising start - student years in Aragon, Madrid and Rome; court life and court art - Bourbon patronage and tapestry cartoons; "a vain and difficult man" - the inspiration of Velazquez and the restriction of religious art; the sublime portraitist - private patrons and the challenge of portraiture; illness, madness and witchcraft - the "caprichos" and their precursors; the beleaguered monarchy - political uncertainties and artistic triumphs; disasters of war - war and the artist as witness; aftermath - victory and artistic retreat; geriatric genius - Goya triumphant; the tribute of posterity - Goya's legacy and the Spanish tradition.