At the very beginning of the modern period of Realism
stood the imposing figure of Francisco Goya
(1746-1828), a great independent painter from Spain
. He founded no school and rivaled his heritage to Velázquez
, and a great painter from Seville
, as well as, Rembrandt
and "nature." Diffuse in personality, a child of enlightenment, he desired to understand natural laws. During his lifetime he became deaf at the age of 46 affecting him as an artist. Very much a Romantic
in style, he drew his ideas mostly from Spanish proverbs
and is satirical
of society. During the ongoing Spanish Inquisition
of his time some of his work was withdrawn because of heretical accusations. Goya was a transitional figure of his time who changed the Tradition while he embodied the present and portended the future. In his long life, he produced masterworks in a variety of artistic styles, and, from a higher vantage point than most of his peers of the same era. He often portrayed humanity's capacity for evil
and freehanded revelation
. Great Spanish painting has rarely been sentimental; it has persisted, often with unflinching honesty, on the cruel facts of life.
Little of the grim account of humanity foretold in The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, an unworldly work linked to the art of William Blake can be seen in Goya's primary, vibrant manner, which was smartly adapted from Tiepolo. At the royal court in Madrid, where his precocious talent had brought him early in his career, Goya produced a series of genre paintings prepared to serve as models for tapestries. Their predominant mood of festivity was the mood of the Rococo, but the blitheness of Goya's early style soon ebbed. His experiences as a painter for Charles IV, at whose luridly corrupt court he lived, must have furthered the unsentimental, hard-eyed realism of his later style.
Along with The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, his most notable works include The Family of Charles IV and The Third of May, 1808. In 1819, Goya was 72 years old and nearing the end of his productive, yet trouble-filled life. Toward the end of his life, the inanity and brutalities he witnessed, and his own impending ailments, combined to depress Goya's look in life further as demonstrated in his so-called Black Paintings, executed in oil directly on the plaster walls of his own home. Living through the violence of the Napoleonic Wars and the turbulence of Spanish politics after the defeat of Napoleon, these so-called "black paintings" represent the culmination of Goya's artistic efforts. In malefic midnight colors, he created whole inhabitants of subhuman monsters who worship the devil and roil through the terrors of the night. Saturn Devouring His Children was one product of this cynical and misanthropic style. This horrifying late work is not only a savagely wild expression of man's inhumanity to man, but a recognition of the despairing conditions of life itself. Goya did not title these works, and although art historians have supplied their own titles, after almost two hundred years, they retain their capacity to reduce the viewer to shocked silence.
The Black Paintings, scenes of witchcraft and other bizarre activities, are among the most outstanding works of the artist's late years. In 1824, the political situation in Spain forced him to leave for France. In Bordeaux he took up the then new art of lithography, producing a series of bullfight scenes, considered among the finest lithographs ever made. Although he returned to Madrid for a brief visit in 1826, he died in self-imposed exile in Bordeaux two years later.
Justus, Kevin. "Art and Culture II." Tucson , Arizona.
1992. (Lecture presented at Pima Community College.)
De La Croix, Horst, Richard D. Tansey, and Diane Kirkpatrick.
Art Through the Ages. University of Michigan: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
The Black Paintings: