Like all Iberian boys, Francisco took the name of a patron saint, then the name of his father, José Goya, and of his mother, Eugracia Lucientes—lady of grace and light. She was an hidalga, hence the de that Francisco inserted into his name. He was born on March 30, 1746, in Fuentetodos, an Aragon village of 150 souls and no trees—a stony soil, a hot summer, a cold winter, killing many, making the survivors grim and tough.
Francisco dabbled with brushes, and, in his boyhood, painted for the local church a picture of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, patroness of Aragon. In 1760 the family moved to Saragossa; there the father worked as a gilder, and earned enough to send his boy to study art under José Luzán. With him and Juan Ramírez Goya copied Old Masters, imitated Tiepolo’s subtle coloring, and learned enough anatomy to draw forbidden nudes. Story tells of his joining—soon leading—a band of wild youths who defended their parish against another, how in one of the brawls some bravos were killed, and how Francisco, fearing arrest, fled to Madrid.
In December, 1763, he took an examination for admission to the Academy, and failed. Legend describes his riotous life in the capital; we only know that Goya was not in love with laws. He competed again in 1766, and failed. Perhaps these failures were his fortune: he escaped the academic tutelage of Mengs, he studied the work that Tiepolo was doing in Madrid, and he laid the foundations of a unique style pervaded with personality. The legend tells next how he joined a troupe of bullfighters and traveled with them to Rome, at a date unknown. He was always a devotee of toreadors, and once he signed himself “Francisco de los Toros.” “I used to be a bullfighter in my youth,” he wrote in old age to Moratín; “with sword in hand I feared nothing.”91 Perhaps he meant that he had been one of those venturesome lads who fought bulls in the streets. In any case he reached Italy, for in 1770 he won second prize in a competition at the Academy of Fine Arts in Parma. Legend describes him climbing the dome of St. Peter’s, and breaking into a convent to carry off a nun. More likely he was studying the pictures of Magnasco, whose dark coloring, tortured figures, and Inquisition scenes may have moved him more deeply than the calm and classic poses that Mengs had recommended in Spain.
In the fall of 1771 he was back in Saragossa, decorating a chapel in the cathedral, Iglesia Metropolitana della Nuestra Señora del Pilar. This he did well, earning fifteen thousand reales for six months’ work; and now he could support a wife. Since propinquity dominates in determining our choice of mates, he married (1773) Josefa Bayeu, who had youth and golden hair and was near at hand. She served as his model, and he painted her portrait many times; that which hangs in the Prado shows her tired with many pregnancies, or saddened by Francisco’s digressions from monogamy.92
He returned to Madrid (1775). Probably on Bayeu’s recommendation, Mengs commissioned him (1776) to paint large canvases as “cartoons” for the Royal Tapestry Factory that Philip V had founded in emulation of the Gobelins. Now, risking a serious repulse, Goya made a decision that shaped his career. Ignoring Mengs’s predilection for classical mythology and heroic history, he portrayed in massive line and vivid color the people of his own kind and time—their labor and loves, their fairs and festivals, their bullfights and kite-flying, their markets, picnics, and games; and to this realism he added, venturesomely, things he had imagined but never seen. Mengs rose to the occasion: he did not condemn this transcending of academic traditions; he felt the pulse of life in the new style, and gave the rebel more commissions. In fifteen years Goya produced forty-five cartoons as the staple of his work, while moving with growing confidence into other fields. Now he could eat and drink in comfort. “I have twelve to thirteen thousand reales a year,” he wrote to his friend Zapater.
A spirochete intruded upon this prosperity. We do not know the origin of Goya’s syphilis; we know that he was seriously ill in April, 1777.93 He recovered gradually, but we may suspect that the ailment had some influence on the pessimism in his art, perhaps on his loss of hearing in 1793. He was well enough in 1778 to take part in a project of Charles III to spread abroad, through prints, the treasures of Spanish art. For this purpose Goya made copies of eighteen paintings by Velázquez; from these copies he made etchings; it was a new skill for him, and his burin was for a while unsure and crude; but from that beginning he grew to be one of the greatest etchers since Rembrandt. He was allowed to present his copies in person to the King, and in 1780 he was enrolled as one of the court painters. Now at last he was received into the Academy. About 1785 he made his famous portrait of Charles III, showing him in hunting costume, dressed to kill, but aged, weary, toothless, bowlegged, bent; here, as usual, Goya sacrificed favor to truth.
His father having died, Goya brought his mother and brother Camilo to live with him, Josefa, and the children. To support this enlarged household he accepted a variety of commissions: to paint a fresco in the Church of San Francisco el Grande, devotional pictures for the Calatrava College at Salamanca, and genre scenes for the country house of the Duke of Osuna; and to execute portraits as the most lucrative branch of his profession. He made several of Osuna;94 one of the Duke and his family—the children as stiff as dollars; and a three-quarter length of the Duchess of Osuna95—a miracle of oils transfigured into silk and lace.
Perhaps Goya was happy in 1784. In that year Javier was born, the only one of his children who would survive him. The frescoes in San Francisco el Grande were ceremoniously unveiled, and were hailed as the finest painting of that age; the King and all the court were present, and joined in the praise. About 1787 Goya painted the portrait of the Marquesa de Pontejos, which is now one of the prize possessions of the National Gallery at Washington. A year later he returned to nature in La Pradera de San Isidro96—afield crowded with picnickers celebrating the feast of Madrid’s great patron saint by riding, strolling, sitting, eating, drinking, singing, dancing on the grassy shores of the Manzanares. It is only a sketch, but it is a chef-d’oeuvre.
When Charles died (1788) Goya was in his forty-third year, and thought himself old. In the previous December he had written to Zapater: “I have become old, with so many wrinkles in my face that you could no longer recognize me if it were not for my flat nose and sunken eyes.”97 He could hardly foresee that he had forty years more of life in him, and that his wildest adventures and most distinguished work lay in his future. He had developed slowly; now romance and revolution would compel him to quicken his pace or be submerged. He rose with events, and became the greatest artist of his time.
He was kept busy in 1789 making portraits of the new King and Queen for their formal entry into Madrid on September 21. Felipe, eldest son of Charles III, had been barred from the succession as an imbecile; the crown passed to the second son, whom an unsympathetic historian described as only “semi-imbecile.”98 Charles IV was simple and unsuspecting, and so good as almost to invite wickedness. Presuming himself, as second son, excluded from the succession, he had taken to a life of hunting, eating, and parentage. Now, plump and malleable, he submitted amiably to his wife, María Luisa of Parma; he ignored—or was ignorant of—her adulteries, and promoted her lover, Manuel de Godoy, to head the ministry (1792-97).
The new Queen had played with liberal ideas before her accession, and Charles IV in his first year encouraged Floridablanca, Jovellanos, and Campomanes (all of whom Goya portrayed) to continue their program of reforms. But the fall of the Bastille frightened Charles IV and Floridablanca into a political reaction that turned the government back to full co-operation with the Church as the strongest bulwark of monarchy. Many of the progressive measures enacted under Charles III were allowed to lapse; the Inquisition recaptured some of its powers; the importation of French literature was stopped; all newspapers except the official Diario de Madrid were suppressed; Jovellanos, Campomanes, and Aranda were banished from the court. The people rejoiced in the triumph of their cherished faith. In 1793 Spain joined in the war of the monarchical powers against revolutionary France.
Amid this turmoil Goya prospered. In April, 1789, he was named pintor de cámara— painter to the chamber. When Josefa fell ill and the doctor prescribed sea air, Goya took her to Valencia (1790), where he was feted as Spain’s new Velázquez. Apparently he was in demand from one end of Spain to another, for in 1792 we find him in Cádiz as the guest of Sebastián Martínez. On his way back, at Seville, he was stricken with dizziness and partial paralysis; he returned to his friend in Cádiz, and fretted through a lengthy convalescence.
What was this illness? Bayeu spoke of it vaguely as “of the most terrible nature,” and doubted that Goya would ever recover.99 Goya’s loyal friend Zapater wrote in March, 1793: “Goya has been brought to this pass by his lack of reflection, but he is to be commiserated with all the pity that his affliction demands.”100 Many students have interpreted the disease as an aftermath of syphilis,101 but the latest medical analysis rejects this view and diagnoses it as inflammation of the nerves in the labyrinth of the ear.102Whatever the cause, Goya, returning to Madrid in July, 1793, was stone deaf, and remained so till his death. In February, 1794, Jovellanos noted in his diary: “I wrote to Goya, who answered that as a result of his apoplexy he was not even capable of writing.”103 But the paralysis gradually disappeared, and by 1795 Goya was strong enough to fall in love.
Teresa Cayetana María del Pilar was the thirteenth duchess of the famous Alba line. As her father had imbibed French philosophy, she was brought up on libertarian lines, with an education that gave her an alert intellect and an undisciplined will. At thirteen she married the nineteen-year-old Don José de Toledo Osorio, Duke of Alba. Frail and sickly, the Duke for the most part kept to his home and absorbed himself in music. Goya portrayed him at the harpsichord confronting a Haydn score. The Duchess was haughty, beautiful, and sensual; a French traveler remarked that “she has not a hair on her head that does not provoke desire”;104 and she satisfied her own desires without restriction of morals, expense, or class. She took into her household a half-wit, a one-eyed monk, and a little Negress who became her especial pet. Generosity hid in her audacities; she may have taken to Goya because he was deaf and unhappy, as well as because he could immortalize her with his brush.
He must have seen her many times before she stood for her portrait by him, for she fluttered in and out of the court, keeping gossip busy with her flirtations and her bold hostility to the Queen. His first dated picture of her shows her in full length, her sharp, thin features shrouded in a mass of black hair, her right hand pointing to something on the ground; looking, clearly we read the inscription: “A la duquesa de Alba Fco de Goya 1795 ’;105 there is here a suggestion of friendship already established. This is not one of Goya’s masterpieces. Much better is the portrait that he painted, in this year, of Francisco Bayeu, who had just passed away. In November Goya succeeded him as director of the school of painting in the Academy.
The Duke of Alba died in June, 1796. The Duchess retired for a brief period of mourning to her country estate at Sanlúcar, between Seville and Cádiz. It is not certain that Goya accompanied her; we only know that he was absent from Madrid from October, 1796, till April, 1797, and that he recorded in two notebooks some of the things he had seen in Sanlúcar. Most of the drawings show the Duchess: receiving guests, petting her Negro girl, tearing her own hair in a rage, taking her siesta (while the maid removes the chamber vessel),106 fainting in a promenade, or flirting with one or another of Goya’s rivals for her caressing hands. The sketches show his rising jealousy, and picture also another woman—emerging naked from the bath, lying half dressed on the bed, or adjusting the garter on a shapely leg; perhaps Goya, like the Duchess, indulged in tangents to the curve of love. Yet it was probably in Sanlúcar that he painted his proudest picture of her107—dressed as a saucy maja in a black-and-yellow costume, with a sash of scarlet and gold about her tiny waist, and a black mantilla over her head; her right hand (itself a masterpiece of painting) carries two rings, one bearing the name “Alba,” the other “Goya”; her index finger points to his name, and the date 1797, traced in the sandy soil at her feet. He always refused to sell this portrait.
The bloom of the romance had blown away by the time Goya returned to Madrid. Some of his Capricho drawings (1797?) accuse her of wanton surrender to an indecent variety of males. Godoy accused her of seducing the Minister of War, and wrote to the Queen that “the Alba and all her supporters ought to be buried in a huge pit.”108 When the Duchess died (July 23, 1803), age forty, Madrid gossiped that she had been poisoned. Sympathy went out to her because she had left much of her huge fortune to her servants; also she bequeathed an annuity of 3,600 reales to Goya’s son Javier. The King ordered an inquiry into her death—and put Godoy at its head. The physician and some attendants of the Duchess were imprisoned; her will was annulled; her servants were deprived of their legacies; the Queen was soon wearing Alba’s most beautiful jewels.109
Goya had resigned in 1797 as director of painting at the Academy. He was too busy now to teach. In 1798 he was chosen to decorate the dome and tympanums of the Church of San Antonio de la Florida; and though he troubled the clergy by giving his angels voluptuous limbs, nearly all agreed that he had transferred to those saintly spaces, in a fury of inspiration, the life and blood of Madrid’s streets. On October 31, 1799, he was appointed “First Painter to the Court,” with a salary of fifty thousand reales per year. He made in 1800 the most famous of all his paintings: Charles IV and His Family110—a merciless revelation of royal imbecility; we shudder to think how this collection of swollen bodies and stunted souls would have looked without their glamorous raiment—a virtuosity of radiance rarely surpassed in the history of art. We are told that the victims expressed complete satisfaction with the work.111
In a corner of that picture Goya painted himself. We must forgive the egotism of his many self-portraits; some of them, doubtless, were experimental studies made with a mirror, like an actor practicing facial expression before a glass; and two of them are magnificent. The best of them (Plate 1 of the Caprichos) shows him at fifty, deaf but proud, with a pugnacious chin, sensual lips, enormous nose, sly and surly eyes, black hair growing over his ears and almost to his chin, and, to top it all, a lordly silk hat rising over his massive head like a challenge to all the fortuitous nobles of the world. Nineteen years later, after surviving a revolution, he discarded the hat, opened his shirt at the neck, and showed himself in a more amiable mood, still proud, but too confident of himself to stoop to challenges.112
Portraiture was his forte. Though his contemporaries knew that he would not flatter them, they eagerly submitted to the verdict of an art that they hoped would carry them down, for fame or shame, through centuries. We know of three hundred nobles and eighty-eight members of the royal family who sat for him; two hundred of these portraits survive. One of the best is of Ferdinand Guillemardet, the French ambassador; it was brought to Paris by the sitter, was acquired by the Louvre in 1865, and played a part in stirring up Goya’s fame in France. Among Goya’s pictures of children the finest is that of Don Manuel Osorio de Zuñiga, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; here Goya touched Velázquez. He rivaled Velazquez again in his gallery of women, running the range from such scarecrows as The Infanta María Josefa to the “ravishing” Señora García113 and the aging actress La Tirana114—beauty waning but replaced with character.
The most fully revealed of Goya’s women is the saucy maja who, about 1798, posed unadorned for the Maja Desnuda, and, provocatively dressed, for La Maja Vestida; these companion pictures attract almost as many gazers in the Prado as the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The Desnuda and Velázquez’ Rokeby Venus are among the few nudes in Spanish painting; to depict the nude in Spanish art was punishable by a year in prison, confiscation of goods, and exile. Velázquez ventured it under the protection of Philip IV, Goya under the protection of Godoy, who agreed with Goya in preferring substantial bosoms, slim waists, and swelling hips. Despite legend, Goya’s Maja did not represent the Duchess of Alba, nor was the Vestida painted overnight to replace the Desnuda when the angry Duke (in the legend) came with a duel in his eye. But the two pictures were bought by, or given to, the Duchess, and passed at her death into the collection of Godoy.
While Goya was financing his family with portraits he amused himself (1796-97?) with etchings and water colors which he published in 1799 as Los Caprichos— eighty-three caprices of graver, brush, and angry mind, describing with somber satire and sarcastic captions the manners, morals, and institutions of his time. The most significant of the series is No. 43: a man has fallen asleep at his desk while demons swarm about his head; on the desk is an inscription: “El sueño de la razón produce monstruos” (The dream of reason produces monsters). Goya interpreted this to mean “Fantasy abandoned by reason produces monsters; united with reason she is the mother of the arts and the source of their marvels.”115 This was a thrust at the superstitions that darkened the mind of Spain, but it was also a description of half of Goya’s art. He was haunted by horrible dreams; the Caprichos especially are ghastly with them. There the human form is degraded into a hundred bloated, haggard, crippled, bestial shapes; owls and cats leer at us, wolves and vultures prowl, witches fly through the air, the ground is strewn with skulls and shinbones, and corpses of newborn children newly dead. It is as if the diseased imagination of Hieronymus Bosch had leaped across France and the centuries to enter and disorder Goya’s mind.
Was Goya a rationalist? We can only say that he favored reason against superstition. In one of his drawings he showed a young woman, crowned with laurel and holding a scale, chasing black birds with a whip; underneath this Goya wrote: “Divine Reason, do not spare anyone.”116 Another shows monks unfrocking themselves;117 and upon a monk in prayer he put the face of a lunatic.118 He pictured The Tribunal of the Inquisition119 as a dismal scene of pitiful victims judged by cold authority. He represented a Jew chained in an Inquisition cell, and wrote the caption: “Zapata, your glory will be everlasting”;120 was this an echo of Voltaire’s Questions of Zapata? He made twenty-nine plates of Inquisition victims suffering diverse punishments,121 and at their end he drew a rejoicing figure over the caption “Divine Liberty!”122 And yet, to the end of his life, he crossed himself piously, invoked Christ and the saints, and headed his letters with a cross; perhaps all these were vestiges of habits formed in youth.
Was Goya a revolutionist? No. He was not even a republican. There is no sign in his art or his words that he desired the overthrow of the Spanish monarchy. He attached himself and his fortunes to Charles III, to Charles IV, to Godoy, to Joseph Bonaparte, and associated gladly with the nobility and the court. But he had known poverty, he still saw it around him, he was repelled by the destitution of the masses, their consequent ignorance and superstition, and the Church’s acceptance of mass poverty as a natural consequence of the nature and inequality of men. Half of his art commemorated the rich, the other half was a cry for justice to the poor, a protest against the barbarism of law, the Inquisition, and war. He was a loyalist in his portraits, a Catholic in his paintings, a rebel in his drawings; there, with an almost savage power, he expressed his hatred of obscurantism, injustice, folly, and cruelty. One drawing represents a man stretched on a rack, with an inscription, “Because he discovered the movement of the earth.” Another pictures a woman in the stocks because “she showed sympathy for the Liberal cause.”
Who were these Spaniards who called themselves Liberales? They were apparently the first political faction to use that name. They meant by it to signalize their desire for liberty—of the mind from censorship, of the body from degradation, of the soul from tyranny. They had received gratefully the Luces coming in from the French Enlightenment. They welcomed the entry of a French force into Spain (1807); indeed, half of the population welcomed it as an army of liberation; no protest was heard when Charles IV resigned and his son Ferdinand VII was enthroned under the protection of Murat’s soldiery. Goya painted a portrait of the new ruler.
But the mood of the people, and of Goya, changed when Napoleon summoned Charles IV and Ferdinand VII to Bayonne, deposed both of them, exiled one to Italy, the other to France, and made his brother Joseph king of Spain. An angry crowd gathered before the royal palace; Murat ordered his soldiers to clear the square; the crowd fled, but reassembled, twenty thousand strong, in the Plaza Mayor. When French and Mameluke troops marched toward the plaza they were fired on from windows and arcades; infuriated, they entered houses, killing indiscriminately. Troops and crowd entered into an all-day battle, the famous Dos de Mayo (May 2, 1808); hundreds of men and women fell. From some nearby vantage Goya saw part of the massacre.123 On May 3 thirty of the prisoners taken by the soldiers were executed by a firing squad, and every Spaniard found with a gun in his hands was put to death. Nearly all Spain was now in revolt against the French. A “War of Liberation” spread from province to province, disgracing both sides with bestial ferocities. Goya saw some of these, and was haunted by their memory till his death. In 1811, fearing the worst, he made his will. In 1812 Josefa died. In 1813 Wellington took Madrid; Ferdinand VII was again king.
Goya celebrated the triumph of Spain by painting two of his most famous pictures (1814).124 One, Dos de Mayo, was his reconstruction of what he had seen, heard, or imagined of the battle between the populace of Madrid and the French and Mameluke troops. He placed the Mamelukes in the center, for it was their participation that stirred the hottest resentment in Spanish memory. We need not ask if the picture is accurate history; it is brilliant and powerful art, from the gradations of gleaming colors on the horse of the falling Mameluke to the faces of men terrified and brutalized by the choice between killing and being killed. Even more vivid is the companion picture, The Shooting of the Third of May —a. squad of French riflemen executing Spanish prisoners; nothing in Goya is more impressive than the contrast of terror and defiance in the central figure of that massacre.
Still a pensioned pintor de cámara, but no longer a favorite at the court, Goya, widowed, silenced, and deaf, retired into the world of his art. Perhaps in 1812 he made the most powerful of his engravings, The Colossus125—a Hercules with the face of Caliban, seated on the edge of the earth, a Mars resting after triumphant war. Ever since 1810 he had been drawing little sketches which he later engraved and printed, and to which he gave the title The Fatal Consequences of Spain’s Bloody War with Bonaparte, and other Caprichos. He did not dare publish these eighty-five drawings; he bequeathed them to his son, whose son sold them to the Academy of San Fernando, which published them in 1863 as Los Desastres de la Guerra.
These sketches are not usual battle scenes, which disguise killing as heroism and glory; they are moments of terror and cruelty in which the frail restraints of civilization are forgotten in the ecstasy of conflict and the intoxication of blood. Here are houses on fire, collapsing upon their inmates; women rushing to the battle with stones or pikes or guns; women raped; men tied to posts before firing squads; men shorn of a leg, an arm, or a head; a soldier cutting off a man’s genitals;126 corpses impaled upon the sharp stumps or limbs of trees; dead women still clutching their infants at their breast; children gazing in horror at the slaughter of their parents; dead men cast in heaps into pits; vultures feasting upon the human dead. Under these pictures Goya added sardonic captions: “This is what you were born for”;127 “This I saw”;128 “It happened like this”;129 “To bury the dead and be silent.”130 At the end Goya expressed his despair and his hope: No. 79 is a woman dying amid gravediggers and priests, and is captioned “Truth dies”; but No. 80 shows her radiating light, and asks, “Will she rise again?”
In February, 1819, he bought a country house on the other side of the Manzanares. It was shaded by trees, and though he could not hear the music of the brook that bordered it, he could feel the lesson of its placid continuance. The neighbors called his home La Quinta del Sordo, the House of the Deaf. As Javier had married and made a separate household, Goya took with him Doña Leocadia Weiss, who served him as mistress and housekeeper. She was a lusty shrew, but Goya was immune to her eloquence. She brought with her two children—a boy, Guillermo, and a lively little girl, María del Rosario, who became the solace of the artist’s declining life.
He badly needed so wholesome a stimulus, for his mind was on the edge of lunacy. Only so can we understand the pinturas negras with which he covered many walls of the house that was his asylum. As if reflecting the darkness of his mind, he painted chiefly in black and white; and as if faithful to the vagueness of his visions, he gave no certain contours to the forms, but used rough daubs to quickly fix upon the walls the fleeting images of a dream. On one of the long side walls he represented The Pilgrimage of San Isidro— the same festival that he had painted joyfully in 1788, thirty-one years before; but now it was a gloomy panorama of bestial and drunken fanatics. On the opposite wall he gathered even more horrible figures in a Sabbath of Witches awesomely worshiping a huge black goat as their Satan and commanding god. At the farther end of the room rose the most hideous form in the history of art, Saturn Devouring His Offspring —a giant crunching a naked child, having eaten the head and one arm, and now gorging himself on the other, splashing blood;131 perhaps it is an insane symbol of insane nations consuming their children in war. These are the visions of a man who is obsessed with macabre imaginings, and madly paints them to drive them out of himself and immobilize them on the wall.
In 1823 Leocadia, whose Freemason activities had made her fear arrest, fled to Bordeaux with her children. Goya, left alone with the madness that he had painted on his walls, decided to follow them. But if he went without royal permission he would forfeit the official salary that he was receiving as pintor de cámara. He asked for several months’ leave to take the waters at Plombières; it was granted. He deeded the Quinta del Sordo to his grandson Mariano, and in June, 1824, he made his way to Bordeaux, Leocadia, and María of the Rosary.
As he neared death his love for his grandson Mariano became his dominant passion. He settled an annuity on the boy, and offered to pay expenses if Javier would bring Mariano to Bordeaux. Javier could not come, but he sent his wife and son. When they arrived Goya embraced them with such emotion that he broke down and had to take to his bed. He wrote to his son: “My dear Javier, I only want to tell you that all this joy has been too much for me. … May God grant that you can come and fetch them, and then my cup of happiness will be full.”132 The next morning his voice was gone, and half his body was paralyzed. He lingered for thirteen days, impatiently awaiting Javier, in vain. He died on April 16, 1828. In 1899 his remains were brought from Bordeaux to Madrid and were interred before the altar of the Church of San Antonio de la Florida, where, 101 years before, he had painted under the dome the pains and griefs, the joys and loves, of Spanish life.