Neoclassicism and Romanticism


(Neoclassicism, Romanticism and Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map)





Francisco de Goya

"Life and Work"





Early Years (1746-1773)


Move to Madrid (1774-1783)


Artist to Nobility (1783-1791)


Crisis and a New Start (1792-1798)


The Sleep of Reason (1797-1799)




The Height of Fame (1799-1807)


Times of War (1808-1818)




The "Black Paintings" (1819-1823)




Exile in France (1824-1828)









The Height of Fame




Portraits and Scenes of Everyday Life

After Goya had completed The Family of Charles IV, he withdrew increasingly from court life. He probably thought it wiser to remove himself as far as possible from the sphere of the monarch, whose unpredictable politics had led to the fall of many of Goya's friends.
His artistic interests now lay mainly in portrait painting. He accepted a large number of portrait commissions and within a few years had painted 40 portraits, mainly of individuals from the affluent middle classes of Madrid. He himself had meanwhile joined this social group. His salary as First Court Painter, together with the income from portrait paintings, meant he could afford an expensive lifestyle, and he acquired two houses in Madrid, one at 15 Calle de Valverde, where he lived with his family until 1819, and a second at 7 Calle de los Reyes. This he gave to his son Javier when he married in 1805, aged 24. In the following year, Javier and his young wife Gumersinda, who was expecting their first child, moved away from Goya's household.
Goya painted some of his finest portraits around this time. The men and women of the middle classes radiate a natural self-confidence. Apart from the name, we often know little about the individuals portrayed, but these images are nevertheless fascinating as character studies, and the inner presence of the subjects is often enthralling.
Because of his deafness, the artist was largely reliant on the gestures of those he was communicating with; he could make himself understood in sign language only with a few of his closest friends and relatives. This undoubtedly contributed to his sensitivity as a portrait painter. Spanish portrait painting had long been characterized by a high degree of naturalism. Goya, however, combined a sharp-sighted perception with his freer, open technique of painting. This endowed his portraits with an unusual degree of animation - as though a smile had briefly flitted across a sitter's face a moment before, or she had just moved.
In addition to commissioned work, Goya was completing a large number of drawings. He filled countless albums with observations and ideas, as if keeping a secret diary. These drawings were not studies for paintings or prints, but works of art in their own right. During this period, Goya did not use a pencil: he generally worked with a paintbrush and used black or brown ink. He often added a few words as a commentary. Nothing fascinated him more than people and their behavior - their beauty, cruelty, despair, and pride.

Francisco de Goya
Bartolome Sureda y Miserol

Oil on canvas, 120 x 79 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Bartolome Sureda, the director of the Royal Porcelain Manufactory, was a well-traveled specialist in new printing and ceramic techniques. Self-confident, almost casual, he leans on a small table, his hat in his hand. His clothing -the tailored coat, the neck-cloth - and his hairstyle are typical of bourgeois fashion of the time.

Francisco de Goya
Francisca Sabasa y Garcia

Oil on canvas, 71 x 58 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

The direct gaze of this young woman seems at once open and yet rather distant. Her proud, upright posture gives the impression of natural dignity and elegance.
No external display, no colorful brilliance distracts us from her personality. Goya portrays the gentle facial features with a slightly soft focus, a device that enhances the animated effect of the portrait still further. Her clothing, painted with broad, sweeping brushstrokes, is sketched in freely.
The young woman is wearing a diaphanous lace scarf over her hair, with locks falling freely onto her brow.
Around her shoulders she has a brown shawl with a pattern Goya has only hinted at.

Francisco de Goya
Majas on Balcony

Oil on canvas, 194,8 x 125,7 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Behind the balustrade sit two women in expensive lace mantillas, two majas, perhaps prostitutes.
Behind them, in the shadow, stand their companions, with black capes and hats pulled over their faces.
This gives the picture a slightly disturbing quality, as though the observer is also the observed.

Francisco de Goya
Maja and Celestina

Oil on canvas, 166 x 108 cm
Collection Bartolomé March, Palma de Mallorca

Francisco de Goya
Conversation galante



The Clothed Maja and the Nude Maja



A scandalous painting

Two paintings each show the same woman in exactly the same pose. With her hands clasped behind her head, she is stretched out on her upholstered couch and gazing directly at the observer. The clothed maja is already an erotic challenge. Her translucent fine silk gown emphasizes her physical form more than it hides her. The clothed maja challenges you to imagine her naked. Goya turns this game of fantasy upside down with his painting of the maja nude. Like a picture puzzle, the one merges into the other -it is very likely that the painting of the clothed maja was used to cover its nude companion piece, for this painting was a scandal. Depictions of the unclothed human form were strictly forbidden by the Spanish Church.


Francisco de Goya
The Nude Maja (La Maja Desnuda)

Oil on canvas, 97 x 190 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Francisco de Goya
The Clothed Maja (La Maja Vestida)

Oil on canvas, 97 x 190 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Goya and the traditional nude

Since the 16th century, the royal art collections had included the famous female nude by Titian. During the Italian Renaissance the nude had become one of the standard themes of art, but was always presented within a mythological framework - for example as a depiction of Venus, the goddess of love. The only nude in Spanish art had been executed by Velazquez 150 years before Goya. His Venus presents the classical goddess as a very mortal beauty who, though she has her back to the observer, is looking back at him through the mirror. In this way, the observer sees her body in all its beauty, but sees her face only indistinctly. By contrast. Goya's maja is almost brutally direct. All mythological embellishment falls away. The model offers herself to view in full consciousness of her charm and seems at the same time to observe the effect closely.

Venus with Organ Player and Cupid

Rokeby Venus


Model and patron

It was once wrongly assumed that the Duchess of Alba was the model for this painting, though there is in fact little similarity between the two women. Goya probably painted a maja from Madrid, a woman of the people, who was able to exploit her physical assets self-confidently and profitably. It was possibly even the very Pepita Tudo who became Godoy's mistress and whom he later married after becoming a widower. No one but Godoy, the most powerful man in the country, would dare to commission such a painting and to hang it in his palace. Only selected visitors were permitted to see the secret cabinet in which the Nude Maja was kept. The painting hung immediately beside Velazquez' Venus, a gift to Godoy from the Duchess of Alba at the time of their liaison. In 1808, after Godoy's fall, the daring painting was confiscated. In 1814 Goya had to answer for it to the Inquisition; unfortunately, we know nothing about the course of his trial.

Francisco de Goya
The Nude Maja



The modernity of the Majas

The provocation in the woman's gaze can still be felt today. Writers, art historians, and artists have been fascinated, irritated, or offended by it. The Czech painter and author Karel Capek (1890-1938) summarized the essence of the revolutionary content of this painting: "The end of erotic deception. The end of allegorical nudity. She is Goya's single life painting, but she discloses more than mountains of academic flesh could ever do. "Painters of the modern movement picked up the tradition of Goya's painting of the naked maja: Edouard Manet in his painting of Olympia, a Paris prostitute, Picasso with his reclining nudes.


Edouard Manet


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