Francisco de Goya holds a unique and interesting place in art as one of the last Old Masters and the first of the modern painters. Though trained in the Rococo style, he is also known as the Father of Modern Art. Largely successful during his lifetime, Goya was also known as a portraitist, printmaker, and political commentator. Here are some facts about Goya:
1. He was rejected from art school.
- Goya submitted samples to the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando and was rejected in 1763 and 1766.
- Before trying to enter the Academia, he also studied under Anton Raphael Mengs, who was a popular painter in royal circles, but the two did not get along.
2. There are fanciful biographical accounts of the time Goya relocated to Rome out of his own pocket with a gang of bullfighters.
- Some biographers say that he worked as an acrobat or for a Russian diplomat.
- Other biographers say that he planned to whisk away from a convent a beautiful nun whom he’d fallen in love with.
3. Goya got successful enough to gain admission to the art school that rejected him.
- But it also helped that he was married to Josefa Bayeu, sister of Aragonese artist Francisco Bayeu.
- It also helped that Francisco Bayeu already had a membership to the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando.
4. Goya painted rococo-style tapestry cartoons in order to gain more fame and attention.
- The tapestry cartoons were commissions for the Royal Tapestry Factory. For his work, he was eventually appointed painter to the royal court of Spain.
- He was also unofficially the interior decorator of the Palacio Real del Pardo and the El Escorial, as many of his patterns and cartoons adorned their stone walls.
5. Goya had an undiagnosed illness that left him completely deaf.
- Some speculate that he suffered from cumulative lead poisoning, as he crushed and painted with a lot of white lead.
- Others think that the illness may have been Ménière’s disease or viral encephalitis or a series of high blood pressure-related strokes, as he suffered from episodes of imbalance, tinnitus, and deafness.
6. After his mysterious illness, Goya became more withdrawn, paranoid, and introspective.
- He began painting non-commissioned works, which often featured dark themes, a bleak view of humanity, a fear of madness, creatures from mythology, and were often critiques of war, greed, and the nobility.
- The most famous example is of Saturn Devouring His Son, one of the 14 so-called Black Paintings that Goya painted directly onto the walls of his house, the Quinta del Sordo (“Deaf Man’s Villa”) between 1819 and 1823.
Though he was plagued later in life by mental stresses and got wrapped up in French-Spanish politics, Goya was considered a great enough artist that King Ferdinand VII allowed him to stay on at the royal court despite having worked for Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon. Even when he exiled himself to Bordeaux, France during the last years of his life, Goya was so skilled and popular that his body was brought back to Spain for interment. Today, he is considered as one of Spain’s greatest artists of all time.