Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Goya, Francisco de

Maria Teresa de Borbon y Vallabriga, later Condesa de Chinchon (Maria Teresa Carolina)
oil on canvas
134.5 x 117.5 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

Teresa stands at the edge of the terrace of her father’s country palace near Avila, in the mountains west of Madrid. She gazes out at the viewer with an innocence very much in contrast with her adult costume and mature stance. Teresa was four and a half years old.

Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828), began his painting career just after the late Baroque period, is considered one of the last of the Old Masters of painting, as well as the first of the moderns who is considered to be "the Father of Modern Art".

He began his apprenticeship in painting at the age of 14, but his genius was slow in maturing and he was well into his thirties before he began producing work that set him apart from his contemporaries. In 1779, he won an appointment as a painter to the royal court and became friendly with the crown prince of Spain, spending two summers with him and his family, paintings portraits, and expanding his circle of royal patrons. He was given a salaried position as a court painter in 1786, and in 1799 was made the first court painter, painting for the king and his family, as well as the Spanish nobility.

Between the years of 1792 and 1793, he suffered from a mysterious illness, which made him deaf, and affected his mental behavior. Some current medical scientists believe that his deafness was a result of the lead in which he used in his paints, whereas others believe it may have been some sort of viral encephalitis. Either way, its effect on Goya cannot be understated. After his illness, he became withdrawn and introspective, and began painting a series of disturbing paintings on the walls of his house in Quinta del Sordo. His earlier themes of merry festivals and cartoons changed into depictions of war and corpses, representing a darkening of his mood. Whether this has more to do with the French declaration of war on Spain or some medical problem leading to mental disturbance is up to debate.

He completed some 500 oil paintings and murals, about 300 etchings and lithographs, and many hundreds of drawings. He was exceptionally versatile and his work expresses a very wide range of emotion. In his own day he was chiefly celebrated for his portraits, of which he painted more than 200; but his fame now rests equally on his other work. As such, his legacy ranges from simple portraits of the royal family to devilish portrayals of demons eating their young. His legacy also has inspired several operas, a piano suite, and a number of feature films.