Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes

Early Life and Work

After studying in Zaragoza and Madrid and then in Rome, Goya returned c.1775 to Madrid and married Josefa Bayeu, sister of Francisco Bayeu, a prominent painter. Soon after his return he was employed to paint several series of tapestry designs for the royal manufactory of Santa Barbara, which focused attention on his talent. Depicting scenes of everyday life, they are painted with rococo freedom, gaiety, and charm, enhanced by a certain earthy reality unusual in such cartoons. In these early works he revealed the candor of observation that was later to make him the most graphic and savage of satirists.

Goya possessed a driving ambition throughout his life (the only masters he acknowledged were "Nature," Velázquez, and Rembrandt). His first important portrait commission, to paint Floridablanca, the prime minister, resulted in a painting intended to flatter and please an important sitter, heavy with technical display but less penetrating than the portraits he made of the rich and powerful thereafter. He became painter to the king, Charles III, in 1786, and court painter in 1789, after the accession of Charles IV and Maria Luisa. His royal portraits are painted with an extraordinary realism. Nevertheless, his portraits were acceptable and he was commissioned to repeat them.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: European Art, 1600 to the Present: Biographies