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Mr. Burgher's Art Facts

Francisco de Goya

Mix Master
About Mr.B

Francisco Goya: March 30,1746-April 16,1828...Spain

"Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels."
~Francisco de Goya

Born in Aragón (Northeastern Spain), Francisco de Goya y Lucientes was not born from wealthy roots. His father was a guilder (someone that added decorations to something; ie. A book guilder would add decorations into books). After his primary education he studied drawing and was then apprenticed for four years to José Luzan at the age of fourteen, but left to attend classes at San Luis Academy. When he was twenty, he took lessons from Francisco Bayeu. In 1773 these two artists began to collaborate and Goya married Bayeu's sister, Josefa, around 1775. Much of his early work is of upper class life. In 1780 he began training at the Real Academia de San Frenando in Madrid, Spain. Soon, in 1785, he became the academy's deputy director of painting.

Goya was a great user of chiaroscuro (user of light and shadow). Goya worked his way up the ranks based on his amazing skills, largely focusing on portraits. After fifteen years of working in the court, he hit the top position. He was appointed the royal painter for King Charles IV in 1789. He was now able to get in close contact with intellectuals as well as moral and political leaders, whose ideas would find their way into his artworks. 

Goya fell seriously ill in 1792. It took several months to recover, but he was left permanently deaf. When he went deaf he also went crazy. His artwork turned very dark. At this point he would paint for himself, not a monarch.

Goya was living under a dark cloud. First, he was greatly affected when his teacher Bayeu died in 1795. The death inspired him to take Bayeu's spot as the director of painting at the academy, but resigned after only two years. One of his early etching that show his shift to darker content was the Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. This is an etching that challenges reason as a Romantic view of dreams. There is a metaphor between this macabre darkness and the mind that creates irrational thoughts and fears. It may have been a premoninition of the Romantic style, or it may have been a jab at his seeing Spanish society as fearful one of the looming threat of war. We see Goya, sleeping at his drawing table. A flood of creatures; bats, owls and a large cat come from the darkness. This etching is a part of a series of works called Caprichos.

Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
1797. Etching and Aquatint. 8˝  X 6 inches. Metropolitian Museum of Art, New York, USA.

Secondly, Goya was affected by the violence surrounding the Spanish War of Independence, which lasted from 1808-1814. He was accepting of the Napoleonic invasion as a way to advance liberty and rationalism to isolated Spain. However, many Spaniards faced cruelty and suffering at the hands of the French. In the eighty-two war prints of the Disasters of War, Goya shows the world his talent as a great printmaker, but more importantly to Goya, he shows a plea and the pain of lives forever crushed by injuries, torture, and otherwise unimaginable acts the people of Spain lived through at the time of the Napoleonic War.

Disasters of War
1810-1820. 82 engravings. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

In 1808, Charles IV of Spain abdicated the throne. The Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, wanted his brothers in power along his side. Napoleon appointed his brother Joseph be the new Emperor of Spain. Goya witnessed the people of Madrid revolt against the newly appointed government on the second of May, 1808. Many innocent people were killed in this occupation. Six years later he would reconstruct the images for his painting 3rd of May 1808. We see the patriots for Spain prepare themselves to die for the independence for Spain. Illuminated by the light from a lantern, this nightmarish scene shows us the dead lying in a bloody pile at the Mount Prí ncipe Pí o outside one of the cities gates. The center man is seen as the martyr for Spanish revolt. This central patriot, however, is not the typical hero, but a common man facing a violent death. A monk and the church towers of Santa Marí a la Real and San Nicolá s in background are used as symbolic tones of faith in the painting. After Napoleon was ousted and Ferdinand VII came into power in Spain, Goya was brought back to work as a court painter for a short time.

3rd of May 1808
1814. Oil on Canvas. 104.7 X 135.8 inches. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

In 1819, Goya bought the property that he named "The House of the Deaf Man" (La Quinta del Sordo) that overlooks the Manzanares River outside of Madrid, Spain. Because this was his own house, the works were under no obligation to any client, but created solely for himself. He decorated the walls of the main rooms with fourteen mural paintings that are now known as his "Black Paintings". Perhaps the most recognized, as well as the most evil and horrifying, is his work know as Saturn Devouring One of His Children. Saturn was the son of Mother Earth and Father Sky. He became the Sower of the Seed and Father Time. He was a mama’s boy, who upon the urging from his mom, castrated his abusive father because he was mistreating all his mother's other children placed on Earth. "Those who walk in darkness" grew from the blood that spilled on the soil. With the fall of power, Saturn became the ruler of the Universe with his wife/sister. A witch predicted that he would loose this power after he was killed by one of his children. So, after each child was born, he ate them. The sixth child was sent to the island of Crete, while Saturn ate a rock in a babies blanket. This child grew and became the cup-bearer to Saturn. A potion was slipped to Saturn that caused him to barf up all the other siblings and a huge war for the Universe began. In the end, that son, Zeus, was victorious in that war and Saturn was placed in a prison at the end of the Earth.This is the dark side of nature in the mind of the artist.

Goya went into hiding on September 17, 1823 and left his house in the care of his seventeen year-old grandson, Mariano. Eventually the property was bought by Frédérick Émile d’Erlanger, who hires Salvador Martínez Cubells, a Prado Museum restorer who had the knowledge to have the paintings transferred from the wall, onto a canvas. The paintings were donated to Spain in 1881, and assigned to the collections at the Prado Museum.

Saturn Devouring One of His Children
1821. Oil on Plaster transferred to Canvas. 4 feet 8 inches X 2 feet 8 inches. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

After leaving "The House of the Deaf Man", Goya ended up in Bordeaux, France living with his mistress Rosario Weiss and her two children. He was deaf, sick, and didn't know a word of French. Goya returned to Madrid and last time in 1828. He went back to Bordeaux and died at the age of eighty-two. Because of the diversity of the artwork that Goya produced over his career, it is diffacult to understand the work and the artist, but hopefully this helps with that understanding process.

Don Manuel

Mr. Mike Burgher * PO Box 247 * Dallas Center, Iowa. 50063