Francisco Goya’s The Third of May 1808 (c.1814) is a responsive painting that was intended to honor those who suffered from the occupation of Napoleons army during the Peninsula War in Spain. This large 8in x 9in oil on canvas painting is used to represent the art of Goya, and depict the valor of Spanish revolutionary war. The influences on this piece, as well as its characteristics and influence on later work will be examined. The painting reflects the turmoil during the time period, and contains many aesthetic and emotional qualities that make it relevant in art history; the painting is one of the finest displays of Goya’s abilities.
Goya who lived from (1746 – 1828) was regarded as one of the most (if not the important Romantic artist. He underwent a major transition in his life that reflected on his work. During his early career he was much more optimistic toward humanity. This optimism is evident in his early artwork that consisted of bright pastel colors (1). In his later work (including the time when The Third of May was being painted) his subject matter became much darker and dejected. This dark subject matter reflected Goya’s physical and mental ailments, his disappointment in the French brutality against the Spanish, and his “diminished hope for human progress” (3).
The story behind The Third of May is one of brutality and malice. After Napoleon invaded Spain, he set his brother in place of the Spanish Monarch. The Spanish people believed the royal family was going to be murdered. In response to these rumors, on May 2, 1808 a rebellion against the French army took place. The French retaliated by rounding up civilians the next day and opening fire (4). After the Spanish regained control in 1814, Goya was motivated to ask the provisional government of Spain to commission The Third of May. He requested to, “perpetuate by means of his brush the most notable and heroic actions of our glorious insurrection against the Tyrant of Europe" (5).
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