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Who Was Goya?

Updated on June 3, 2013

Who was Goya? Francisco Goya was a famous Spanish artist (1746-1828) known primarily for his dark paintings and his paintings of the Spanish royal family. He was regarded as one of the last masters of painting, and he painted primarily in the romantic style, though some of his later works had predilection to impressionist style.

Early Life

Goya was born on March 30, 1746 in Fuendetodos, Aragón in Spain where he spent his early childhood. Later, his family moved to the city of Zaragoza. At the age of 14, Goya began to study painting under José Luzán Martinez. Later, he moved on to Madrid to study under master painter Anton Raphael Mengs. Although Goya and Mengs did not see eye to eye and despite the fact that Goya had less than satisfactory exam results, he applied to the Real Academia de Bellas Artes in San Fernando, Spain’s premiere art academy. He applied both in 1763 and 1766, but was denied admission both times.Goya was born on March 30, 1746 in Fuendetodos, Aragón in Spain where he spent his early childhood.

Royal Painter

In 1770, Goya visited Italy, where he enjoyed some success in a painting competition. He returned to Zaragoza and continued painting. In 1773, he married Josefa Bayeu, the sister of his close friend, painter Francisco Bayeu. Goya studied painting with Francisco Bayeu and continued to develop his own artistic style. And, through his relationship with Bayeu, who was a member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes, Goya was able to obtain work as a tapestry designer for the Royal Tapestry Factory. In total, Goya completed 63 paintings of tapestry designs. The tapestries were used in Spain’s famous Escorial monastery and Museo del Prado. More importantly, Goya’s work for the Royal Tapestry Factory opened up work opportunities for the artist, securing him several commissions from members of Spain’s aristocracy.

In 1786, Goya was appointed painter to King Charles III. After the death of King Charles III, Goya continued his work painting for Spain’s Royals when he was appointed court painter under King Charles IV. Some of Goya’s most famous paintings of the Royal Family were completed during his appointment under Charles IV. Most notable among these is Charles IV and His Family. The members of the family are painted in a grotesque style, which most critics see as a Goya’s criticism of corruption under Charles IV’s reign. Of note, Goya always painted the portraits of the children of the royal family in a flattering manner, reflecting their innocence, starkly contrasting with the depictions of the adults in the family.


Sometime in 1792, Goya was struck by an unidentified disease that left him almost entirely deaf. The aftermath of his illness and his deafness had a profound effect on his work as an artist. Goya became increasingly withdrawn from society. In the period of 1793-1794, Goya completed a series of small paintings on tin, called Fantasy and Invention. The works are marked portray a dark, nightmarish view of the world. This series is a precursor to the series of Black Paintings Goya would go on to later create. It is clear that the Fantasy and Invention series was a method by which the artist dealt with the convalescence from his disease and to cope with his isolation caused by deafness.

18th Century Work

In 1808, Spain was invaded by Napoleon’s army, effectively ending King Charles IV’s reign, and beginning the Peninsula War, which lasted until 1814. Although Goya remained neutral during the war, he completed some paintings for French sympathizers, which did not bode well for his relationship with King Ferdinand VII, who reigned after the Peninsula War. Goya continued to paint for royalty but not for the king.

In 1812, Goya’s wife, Josefa, passed away. It was around this time that the artist began work on a series of paintings, The Disasters of War. These paintings depicted the atrocities of the fighting within Spain and a protest against the violence of the Dos de Mayo (1808) uprising incited by Ferdinand’s supporters. Due to the sensitive political nature of the series, these paintings were not published until after the Goya’s death.

In 1819, Goya retreated further from society when he purchased and moved into a home outside of Madrd, Quinta del Sordo (“the deaf man’s villa”). He lived there with his caretaker and her daughter. During his time at Quinta del Sordo, Goya completed his famous Black Paintings. Most of these were painted directly onto the walls of the home. These paintings depict dark subject matter and include one of Goya’s most famous works, Saturn Devouring His Sons. The paintings reflect paranoia, fear, and an obsession with insanity.

In 1824, Goya left Spain and moved to Bourdeaux in France. It was here that he succumbed to a stroke in 1828.


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    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Wonderful hub about Goya. Haven't heard of him but I am glad to stumble your post. Voted up and interesting.

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      Annabelle Tyler 5 years ago


    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      Great bio on Goya. Always one of my favorites. I now know about his life. Thanks for sharing this information. Voted UP.