Sunday, October 5, 2014

Francisco de Goya (1746-1828)

Francisco de Goya was a Spanish artist famous for creating art from subjects that were considered taboo in his era, such as naked women, war, and scary images. He served as court painter to royal family in Spain, making him become extremely popular at the time. His work is often seen as documentation and explanation of Spanish history during his life. As an artist, he had two distinct styles: originally his art used natural colors and focused on casual aristocratic life, ranging from celebrations to people, but he eventually changed to a much darker style to depict war and create emotions of fear and suffering. These pieces of art, often paintings, are still widely appreciated, with many on display at El Museo Del Prado in Madrid.

                                      Charles IV of Spain and his family, 1800

The above picture is one of Charles IV that he painted during his time as court painter. The picture uses natural colors and accurate portrayals of each person in the family to create a real view of what each of them looked like. He is unique in that he did not exaggerate any features of the people to make them look better, as he intended to be as accurate as possible. Furthermore, he did not use positions of power or any sort of pictorial elements to make them seem grander than they were. In doing so, viewers could see exactly what the emperor looked like.

La Maja Desnuda (top), 1800, and La Maja Vestida (bottom), 1803

Two of his most famous pieces of art are the Maja Desnuda and Maja Vestida, both of the same woman in the same pose, only one is naked while the other is not. They likely were paintings of the Duchess of Alba, though this has not been confirmed. La Maja Desnuda was a revolutionary painting in that it was one of the first depictions of a naked female with no censorship. Features such as her pubic hair and breasts were kept realistic, as in his paintings of the royal family, to accurately depict his subject, even though it was an uncommon one. He later followed up with the Maja Vestida to represent a more chaste version of the same woman, and he used a very similar style to create almost a clone image, only with clothes. Originally considered obscene when obtained by the Spanish Inquisition, these paintings are still on display in El Museo Del Prado.

                                                   Que hai que hacer mas? 1810-14

After the Peninsular War started in Spain in 1808, Goya’s style became much darker in content. He depicted the horrors of the war in his series of drawings called The Disasters of war. The picture above is one from this series and depicts graphic violence reminiscent of war. Goya intended to show the horrors of war with this series, which is why he made it so graphic. Other artwork from this set show people being shot, blood, and other acts of violence and are generally darker in color. In doing this, he switched his style of art to exaggerate the scenes and place extra emphasis on the damage the war caused.

                                                 Saturn Devouring his son, 1819-1823

Later in his life, Goya started to lose his mental aptitude and became mentally unstable, prompting his series of Black Paintings. The subjects of these pieces of art were extremely haunting and/or disturbing, often using jackals, demons, looks of torment, and violence, and used dark colors to make the art appear creepier. Perhaps his most famous piece of art Saturn devouring his son was created in this time. Other artists had drawn this scene, such as Peter Paul Rubens, but they do so in a humane way. Goya’s rendition is famous for the graphic depiction of the act and the horrific look on Saturn’s face. One of the most memorable pieces of art to see in person, this painting is a reflection of horror and easily instills fear just by looking at it. This, along with the rest of the black paintings, displays his insanity and his dreary output on life, which may have been caused by war and his loss of mental stability.

Goya is my favorite artist because of his wide variety of style and subjects; in my opinion, no other artist has quite as much of an array of art as him. His work in the early stages of his career attempted to display reality as it was, even if the subject matter was unusual or frowned upon. He later switched to an exaggerated style to convey graphic images that expressed his innermost emotions, something many artists do with happiness or sadness, but less commonly with anger and fear. Personally, having seen many of his pieces of art in El Museo del Prado while I studied abroad in Madrid, I think his art, especially the Black Paintings, are extremely powerful. Although intense and almost scary to look at, I created lasting memories observing them in person. They also have left a long lasting impact on my style of art, as I tend to draw very expressively partially to cover missed lines, but also to make the drawings have more emotional investment. My subject matter is also reminiscent of the Black Paintings, as many of my sketchbook drawings are of dragons, demons, or monsters of some sort. His impact on me has been larger than that of any other artist and I admire him strongly for his variety of work and emotional display of taboo subject matter.

“Charles IV of Spain and his family.” Francisco de Goya. Web 04 Oct. 2014.

“La Maja Desnuda.” Francisco de Goya. Web 04 Oct. 2014.

“La Maja Vestida.” Francisco de Goya. Web 04 Oct. 2014.

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