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Sometimes called the father of modern art, Spanish artist Francisco de Goya painted royal portraits as well as more subversive works in late 1700s and early 1800s.
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A famed painter in his own lifetime, Francisco de Goya was born on March 30, 1746, in Fuendetodos, Spain. He began his art studies as a teenager and even spent time in Rome, Italy, to advance his skills. In 1770s, Goya began to work for Spanish royal court. In addition to his commissioned portraits of the nobility, he created works that criticized the social and political problems of his era.
"The object of my work is to report the actuality of events."
The son of a guilder, Goya spent some of his youth in Saragossa. There he began studying painting around the age of fourteen. He was a student of José Luzán Martínez. At first, Goya learned by imitation. He copied the works of great masters, finding inspiration in the works of such artists as Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez and Rembrandt van Rijn.
Later, Goya moved to Madrid, where he went to work with brothers Francisco and Ramón Bayeu y Subías in their studio. He sought to further his art education in 1770 or 1771 by traveling to Italy. In Rome, Goya studied the classic works there. He submitted a painting to a competition held by the Academy of Fine Arts at Parma. While the judges liked his work, he failed to win the top prize.
Through the German artist Anton Raphael Mengs, Goya started to create works for Spain's royal family. He first painted tapestry cartoons, which were artworks that served as models for woven tapestries, for a factory in Madrid. These works featured scenes from everyday life, such as "The Parasol" (1777) and "The Pottery Vendor" (1779).
In 1779, Goya won an appointment as a painter to the royal court. He continued to rise in status, receiving admission into the Royal Academy of San Fernando the following year. Goya began to establish a reputation as a portrait artist, winning commissions from many in royal circles. Works, such as "The Duke and Duchess of Osuna and their Children" (1787-1788), illustrate Goya's eye for detail. He skillfully captured the tiniest elements of their faces and clothes.
In 1792, Goya became completely deaf after suffering from an unknown malady. He started to work on non-commissioned paintings during his recovery, including portraits of women from all walks of life. His style changed somewhat as well.
Continuing to thrive professionally, Goya was named the director of the Royal Academy in 1795. He may have been part of the royal establishment, but he did not ignore the plight of the Spanish people in his work. Turning to etchings, Goya created a series of images called "Los Caprichos" in 1799, which has been viewed his commentary on political and social events. The 80 prints explored the corruption, greed, and repression that was rampant in the country.
Even in his official work, Goya is thought to have cast a critical eye on his subjects. He painted the family of King Charles IV around 1800, which remains one of his most famous works. Some critics have commented that this portrait seemed to be more a caricature than a realist portrait.
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