Neoclassicism and Romanticism


(Neoclassicism, Romanticism and Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map)







Francisco de Goya

"Life and Work"





Early Years (1746-1773)


Move to Madrid (1774-1783)


Artist to Nobility (1783-1791)


Crisis and a New Start (1792-1798)


The Sleep of Reason (1797-1799)




The Height of Fame (1799-1807)


Times of War (1808-1818)




The "Black Paintings" (1819-1823)




Exile in France (1824-1828)









Early Years




Francisco de Goya y Lucientes born on 30 March at Fuendetodos, near Saragossa.
Birth of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
1750 Death of Johann Sebastian Bach.
1751 First volume of Diderot and d'Alembert's Encydopedie published.
1756-1763 The Seven Years War between Prussia and Austria.
1759 Charles III becomes King of Spain.
1760 Goya's apprenticeship with the painter Jose Luzan in Saragossa begins.
1762 Catherine II (the Great) ascends the Russian throne.
1763 Travels to Madrid; unsuccessful in the Academy competition.
1764 The Spinning Jenny is invented in England.
1766 Popular uprising in Madrid (the Esquilache Uprising).
1770 Travels to Italy.
1771 The first Encyclopaedia Britannica is published.
1771 Achieves an "honorable mention" in the competition at the Parma Academy, then returns to Spain. First important commission for a fresco in the Church of Nuestra Senora del Pilar in Saragossa.
1773 Marriage to Josefa Bayeu.
1773 Dissolution of the Jesuits by Pope Clement XIV.
1774 Fresco in the chapel of the Aula Dei Monastery.


Francisco de Goya

Oil on canvas, 58 x 44 cm
Private collection


When, at 13, Goya began to learn the craft of painting, no one could have foreseen that he would one day become one of the greatest painters of Spanish - and European - art. Even when he traveled to Italy in his mid-twenties and later earned a modest living as a church painter in Saragossa, there was no hint of the extraordinary career that awaited him. Little is known about Goya's youth or the roots of his work as an artist. If his later comments are to be believed, in his youth he was a tough good-for-nothing who was not afraid to test his courage in the bullring. He pursued his career as a painter proudly and self-confidently, even though the Royal Academy in Madrid refused to acknowledge his work. He made a name for himself in the provinces, made contacts among influential people, and disciplined himself to complete his commissions - some of them large ones - to the satisfaction of his patrons. He also painted portraits and made a number of etchings.


The house in Fuendetodos
where Goya was born
A memorial plate on the simple, rough stone house records the birth of Goya, on March 30,1746.The house belonged to the family of Goya's mother and is a testament to the unprepossessing circumstances in which Goya and his five brothers and sisters grew up.


Francisco Bayeu
Portrait of Feliciana Bayeu

In this portrait Goya's teacher, Francisco Bayeu, portrayed his own daughter Feliciana. Painted in soft tones, with light brush strokes, this sensitive portrait was long thought to be by Goya.

Youth and Apprenticeship

On March 30, 1746, Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes came into the world in the village of Fuendetodos, in the province of Aragon. This was the native province of his mother's family: Gracia Lucientes came from the lower ranks of the landed gentry. During the 18th century, one Spaniard in seven belonged to the broad layer of the populace classed as "aristocracy." These were the hidalgos, a word derived from the expression hijo de algo, which translates literally as "somebody's son." Among the aristocratic attitudes inherited by the hidalgos were their pride, their keen sense of honor, and disdain for any form of physical work, though they were frequently completely without means. Goya's family, too, appears to have lived in fairly impoverished circumstances. When his father, Jose Goya, died, he left no will, apparently because he had nothing of value to bequeath.

The family lived in Fuendetodos only briefly, soon moving back to the provincial capital, Saragossa, where Goya's father had been a member of the highly respected Goldsmith's Guild. Here, Goya attended the classes of the pious Pater Joaquin at the Escuelas Pias, a church institution. He befriended a classmate, Martin Zapater, who was to remain his closest friend throughout his life. At 13 he began his apprenticeship to the painter Jose Luzan (1710-1785). Luzan, a church painter who was much in demand, had traveled to Italy in his youth and, while in Naples, had adopted the contemporary style of the Italian Late Baroque. He handed on this traditional concept of art to his pupils by having them patiently copy engravings of the works of great masters. Naturally they also learned the craft of painting, grinding colors, and preparing canvases, but there was no question of developing individual artistic expression. The aim was to copy acknowledged models faithfully. During his four-year apprenticeship with Luzan, Goya also got to know his contemporary and competitor, Ramon Bayeu, and the latter's brother, Francisco, whom he later described as his teacher. There is, in fact, little doubt that Francisco Bayeu (1734-1795), who was soon to begin a dazzling career, was at that time Goya's principal model. In 1762, Bayeu was called to Madrid to work with Anton Raphael Mengs, a German painter working in Spain, decorating the royal palace. A few years later, Bayeu rose to become court painter and created several extensive cycles of frescoes.

By comparison, Goya initially failed to achieve recognition from the artistic circles in Madrid. In 1763 and 1766 he traveled to the capital to take part in the three-yearly competition at the Academy, but did not receive a single vote. In 1773, however, he married the 26-year-old Josefa, the sister of the Bayeus, and this close relationship with the influential Bayeu family would prove to be highly advantageous to his career.

Panoramic view of the village of Fuendetodos
Fuendetodos lies on a barren plain not far from Saragossa. The village had only 100 inhabitants when Goya was born here.




Bernardo Bellotto
Capriccio with the Coliseum
ca.1743 Oil on canvas 95x89 cm
Parma, Galleria Nazionale

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the ruins of classical Rome were a great inspiration to artists, who traveled to Rome from all over Europe to study the antiquities.


Early Works

Goya twice participated unsuccessfully in the competition held every three years by the Madrid Academy of Art, the first prize for which was a bursary in Rome.
A career as an artist was unthinkable without academic recognition, and a study trip to Italy was every artist's dream. Only in Italy, above all in Rome, could one study the masterpieces of antiquity, the paintings of both Raphael and Michelangelo , the art of the Italian Baroque. Goya decided to travel to Italy at his own expense. Very few paintings by him are extant from the period prior to his journey. Among these are two small paintings in which he recorded political events of the time in a rapid, sketch-like style: the Esquilache uprising in Madrid and the expulsion of the Jesuits.

During his trip to Italy, Goya stayed in Rome for approximately a year and managed to earn a living by painting. He made contact with other artists and took the opportunity to study the technique of fresco painting. In this type of painting on walls, color is applied to fresh plaster just before it dries, a technique that requires confidence and a very sure hand. The Baroque ceiling paintings in the churches of Rome are among the finest examples of this technique.

Francisco de Goya
The Dream of St. Joseph
Oil on plaster, transferred to canvas 130x95 cm
Saragossa, Museo de Bellas Artes

It was probably soon after his journey to Rome that Goya completed his first major commissions cycle of religious frescoes in the chapel of the Sobradiel Palace in Saragossa. In The Dream of St. Joseph, the angel calls on St. Joseph not to abandon his pregnant wife, the Virgin Mary. The diagonal composition of the painting was adopted by Goya from an engraving of a painting by the French painter Simon Vouet. Goya had learnt this common practice of copying existing works during his apprenticeship, from his teacher Luzan. The paintings were later removed from the wall and transferred to canvas.

In Italy, Goya was also finally able to win a measure of academic recognition. In 1771 he entered the competition at the renowned Parma Academy with a painting on the theme of Hannibal Contemplating Italy for the First Time, From the Alps, a typical academic theme for history paintings of the time. The jury praised Goya's light brush strokes and the expressive representation of the figures - but did not award him first prize.
Towards the end of 1771 he returned to Spain. After a period of time spent in Italy, the then 25-year-old painter would be able to count on a number of important commissions, at least among influentual patrons in the provinces.


Francisco de Goya
Hannibal Contemplating Italy for the First Time, From the Alps




Rococo and Classicism in Spain

Beauty is a most difficult art, and till now, no artist
has lived who could lay claim to having perfect taste
in all things.

Anton Raphael Mengs


New trends in art

When Goya began his career as a painter art was not thriving in Spain. Mediocrity and academic routine had prevailed since the Golden Age of Spanish painting, the century of Velazquez, Murillo, and El Greco. To instill fresh impetus into Spanish art, King Charles III called two of Europe's leading art figures to his court Anton Raphael Mengs and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Mengs arrived from Rome on October 7,1761; and a few months later the Venetian Tiepolo responded to the Spanish king's invitation to decorate the rooms in his new palace in Madrid. While Tiepolo, the aging Venetian master, embodied the declining age of Rococo painting, the 33-year-old Mengs was the leading representative of early Classicism. Conceptually and stylistically, the two artists could not have been more different. The highly cultivated Mengs quickly assumed a prominent role in artistic circles in Madrid, and his opinion determined the tastes of the day. He not only accepted artistic commissions, he also reformed the Academy of Art, became director of the Royal Tapestry Manufactory, and promoted young talent. He probably became aware of Goya through Bayeu, who was working under Mengs on the decoration of the royal palace in Madrid. In 1774 Mengs called Goya to the capital as a designer for the Royal Tapestry Manufactory. This was the first important step in Goya's career.

Mengs and Neoclassicism

Born in Bohemia, Mengs (1728-1779) began his brilliant career in Italy. Celebrated as one of the finest artists of his period, he spent the greater part of his life in Rome. Here he got to know Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the German art historian who had revived an interest in classical Greece, and worked to achieve a renewal in painting modeled on both antiquity and the Italian Renaissance. In addition to classical sculpture and frescoes, many artists based their work on 16th-century Italian painting, particularly the works of Raphael and Titian. With their even brush strokes and clear, balanced composition, Meng's detached, well-planned paintings were a conscious rejection of the highly decorative and often overblown art of the Baroque. He also developed a reputation as a portrait painter, his smooth, elegant likenesses satisfying the tastes and aspirations of the courtiers who commissioned them. His Portrait of Charles III, which shows the king in the classical pose of the sovereign, in armor enlivened by a red sash, was copied several times as the definitive portrait of the king. Even Goya used the same bearing and profile when he was later commissioned to paint the king in hunting dress. In 1777, his health failing, Mengs returned to Italy.


Anton Raphael Mengs
Portrait of Charles III


Tiepolo and the Rococo

Compared with the dynamic and versatile Mengs, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770) was not able to make his mark at the Spanish court. Hedid indeed decorate the most important rooms in the Madrid royal palace with his ceiling paintings, but apart from this major commission his art had little appeal in Spain. Tiepolo had won his fame as a leading international Rococo fresco painter through his painting schemes in the palaces and churches of Venice and in the Residenz (bishop's palace) in Wurzburg. With his son Giovanni Domenico, he created his last great masterpiece in Madrid's Palacio Real. The large-scale ceiling paintings in the throne room and the audience room, allegories exalting the Spanish monarch, carry the observer into a completely ethereal world (right). His frescoes provide a glimpse of the infinity of the heavens, a world flooded with clear light and filled with groups of figures floating on white clouds. The alternating areas of light and shade enhance the effect of depth in the painting, and bright, luminous colors lend a radiant, festive atmosphere to his vast, masterly designs.

Giovanni Battisa Tiepolo
The Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy


Goya and the art of his time

Mengs and Tiepolo encompass the range of artistic expression prevalent in the late 18th century. Goya undoubtedly studied both with interest, though there is hardly any direct evidence of Neoclassical or Rococo influence in his work: he distanced himself from the prevalent stylistic trends at an early stage in his career. His later works, with their energetic, free-flowing brushwork, have a specifically anti-classical effect. Towards the end of his life, he created a cycle of somber frescoes that contrast profoundly with Tiepolo's luminous visions.


Church Painter in Saragossa



Nuestra Senora del Pilar, Saragossa
According to legend, the Virgin appeared to St. James in Saragossa and gave him a pillar (Spanish pilar) for this pilgrimage church, which had been dedicated to her. From 1771 the church, dominated by its eleven domes, was decorated with new frescoes. The decoration took ten years to complete, and involved several of the most highly regarded painters in Spain.

Francisco de Goya
Head of Angel
1772 Crayon 41.5x34 cm
Madrid, Prado

The drawing is a study for one of the two angels standing on the left of the fresco opposite. For this drawing Goya copied an engraving of an original drawing by Raphael.

In the autumn of 1771, immediately on his return from his travels in Italy, Goya applied for his first important commission, painting one of the vaults in the cathedral of Nuestra Sefiora del Pilar in Saragossa. The committee of works requested him first to complete a study that was to be approved by the Madrid Royal Academy. But Goya's design was so powerful that they decided to do without the approval of the Academy. With a helper to grind the colors, he went straight to work on the fresco. He was now able to show that he had not wasted his time in Italy. The fresco's well-balanced composition, the impression of depth and space, and the warm, glowing colors are strongly reminiscent of Late Baroque ceiling paintings in Italy. There is hardly any sign of individual style, though the slightly sketchy technique is noticeable. Some degree of uncertainty in the representation of figures is also apparent.
Quickly earning a sound reputation as a painter of religious frescoes, Goya completed various commissions in the churches of Saragossa and the surrounding areas. During the 18th century, the Church was the most important source of commissions for paintings after the court, since it had enormous wealth at its disposal. Its power, prestige, and influence were almost limitless; whether beggar or king, anyone who met a priest carrying the consecrated host had to kneel in veneration.
Goya could now live very well from his income; at the age of 27 he was earning almost as much as his teacher Luzan. In 1774 he painted his most extensive cycle of murals in the isolated Carthusian monastery of Aula Dei. They were painted in oil applied directly to the walls, and cover a total area of almost 240 square meters (about 2,580 square feet). Largely forgotten for many years, this cycle on the life of the Virgin Mary is nevertheless among the most interesting of Goya's early works, in spite of its poor condition. Mengs was so taken with the compositions that he had copies of them made.

Francisco de Goya
Adoration of the Name of God
1772 Fresco ca.7x 15 m
Saragossa, Nuestra Senora del Pilar

Angels are massed on banks of clouds that form a triangular space of celestial sky in which hovers the name of God written in Hebrew. In this very
Baroque composition the impression of depth is created by the way in which the figures grow smaller the further away they are. In the distance, the angels almost seem to dissolve in the light. The broad brush strokes used here will also characterize Goya's later work.


Francisco de Goya
Circumcision of Christ
Oil on plaster
31 Ox 520 cm
Saragossa, Cartuja de Aula Dei

Goya developed a completely new style for the frescoes in the church of the Carthusian Aula Dei monastery.In a background of landscape and architectural features, cloaked figures in ample robes are caught in a stately rhythmic movement. Broad areas of light and shade pick out the figures. Of the original eleven paintings.sevenare still extant.


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