Through his art, Francisco Goya relayed his feelings toward the political unrest that plagued Spain during his lifetime. As an artist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Goya lived through a time of political and social upheaval, especially throughout Europe. At the time, the ideas of the Enlightenment had captivated the minds of Spain’s most influential citizens and soon, that of Goya’s. Born in Fuendetodos, Spain, in 1746, Francisco Goya came from very humble beginnings. As the son of a gilder, Goya grew up in the lower class of society, and even after his amazing success as court painter to Spanish royalty, he highly identified himself with the everyday Spaniard or majo. It is this very bond to the people that followed him throughout his life and career. Later, Goya’s portraits, drawings, etchings, and paintings would reflect an internal division that overcame him as his fame and fortune increased. Despite his future camaraderie with the Spanish elite, Goya’s early works often depicted the upper class as somewhat artificial or masked. In fact, this masked-ness is a motif in many of Goya’s works. The contrast between classes is illustrated throughout his tapestry cartoons. These cartoons accurately depict Spanish men and women doing a range of things from enjoying leisurely activities, working, and carrying out very Spanish traditions. Although Goya had a profound connection to his majos and majas, he also shared the beliefs of enlightened thinkers of the times. Figures like Jovellanos, minister to king Charles III, appealed to the other side of Goya. Jovellanos and other Spanish reformers would later be his patrons and comrades and they certainly did not advocate a traditional Spain or for the traditional views of the majevos. Goya’s artistic talents catapulted him to the top of his craft, however he did not forget his origins. Through his art alone, he illustrated the lives of Spaniards both rich and poor in a and time of struggle and democratic revolution, and captured the utter brutality and stupidity of war.
Goya’s tapestry cartoons, executed in the late 1780’s and early 1790’s, were highly praised for their candid views of everyday Spanish life. At the time, Goya had not yet begun moving in the circles of royal patronage, instead, his attention was on the average men and women of Spain and their lifestyles. This was the most important period in his artistic development. As a tapestry designer, Goya found his style as an artist and learned to paint freely. The experience helped him become a keen observer of human behavior. His study of the works of his predecessor, Velazquez, in the royal collection, would later result in a looser, more spontaneous painting technique. In 1778, Goya painted his popular piece, The Blind Guitarist. This cartoon depicts class separation with the light illuminating on the aristocrats and the villagers cast off to the side and illustrated as shadows.
By the mid-1780's, Goya had begun painting the world around him. In his collection, The Four Seasons, bucolic scenes of spring, summer and fall along with peasants trudging through a winter snowstorm, depict a monumental style with fewer figures more clearly delineated compared to the earlier cartoons. Spring and fall have clearly aristocratic overtones. In Spring, a woman of noble demeanor accepts flowers offered by a kneeling woman whose figure is derived from one of the maids. In Autumn, a man and a woman hold a bunch of grapes; a symbol of fertility and fidelity, confirmed by the young child. The child is clearly the offspring of the noble couple rather than the peasant woman because of his attire, a one-piece suit that recalls the one depicted in Goya's portrait of Don Manuel Oserio in 1788. The women at the center of both these pieces seem to have more in common with the aristocrats in Goya's portraits of these years than with the stereotypical women who populated the cartoons he executed before 1780. The harsher...
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