It is in the etching and aquatint media that his profound disillusionment with humanity is most brutally revealed. In 1799 his Caprichos appeared, a series of etchings in the nature of grotesque social satire. They were followed (1810–13) by the terrible Desastres de la guerra [disasters of war], magnificent etchings suggested by the Napoleonic invasions of Spain. They constitute an indictment of human evil and an outrage at a world given over to war and corruption. Two frenzied paintings known as May 2 and May 3, 1808 (both: Prado) also record atrocities of war.
Goya executed two other series of etchings, the Tauromaquia [the bullfight] and the Disparates, the flowers of a tortured, nightmare vision. Throughout the Napoleonic period Goya retained favor under changing regimes. At the age of 70 he retired to his villa, where he is thought to have decorated his walls with a series of "Black Paintings" of macabre subjects, such as Saturn Devouring His Children, Witches' Sabbath, The Dog and The Three Fates (all: Prado). While these mysterious paintings have long been among his most celebrated works, some controversial recent scholarship has indicated that the paintings may be by Goya's son or grandson. Goya's last years, harried by further illness, were spent in voluntary exile in Bordeaux, where he began work in lithography that foreshadowed the style of the great 19th-century painters.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.