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Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes
Romanticist Painting. Goya's Signature.
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Panama 1967. Romanticixt painting. Goya. Self-portrait. Monaco 1996. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Self-Portrait.

Goya was born in the small Aragonese town of Fuendetodos (near Saragossa) on March 30, 1746. His father was a painter and a gilder of altarpieces, and his mother was descended from a family of minor Aragonese nobility. 

Facts of Goya's childhood are scarce. He attended school in Saragossa at the Escuelas Pias. 

Goya's formal artistic education commenced when, at the age of 14, he was apprenticed to a local master, José Luzan, a competent although little-known painter in whose studio Goya spent four years. 

  • Panama 1967.  Self-Portrait, 1815. 

  • Monaco 1996.  Self-Portrait in his studio, 1775-80. Engraved by the French engraver Pierre Albuisson. 

In 1763 the young artist went to Madrid, where he hoped to win a prize at the Academy of San Fernando (founded 1752). Although he did not win the desired award, he did make the acquaintance of Francisco Bayeu, an artist also from Aragon, who was working at the court in the academic manner brought to Spain by the German painter Anton Raphael Mengs. 

Goya. Detail of frescoe painting 1774 for the Charterhouse of Aula Deil

Bayeu (the brother of Goya's wife, Josefa) was influential in forming Goya's early style and was responsible for his participation in an important commission, the fresco decoration (1771, 1780-1782) of the Church of the Virgin in El Pilar in Saragossa.

In 1771 Goya went to Italy for approximately one year. His activity there is relatively obscure; he spent some months in Rome and also took part in the Parma Academy competition, in which he was successful. 

Returning to Spain about 1773, Goya participated in several other fresco projects, including that for the Charterhouse of Aula Dei, near Saragossa, in 1774, where his paintings prefigure those of his greatest fresco project, executed in the Church of San Antonio de la Florida, Madrid, in 1798. It was at this time that Goya began to do prints after paintings by Velázquez, who would remain, along with Rembrandt, his greatest source of inspiration.

  • Detail of frescoe painting (1774) for the Charterhouse of Aula Dei.  Please note, that this image is not a stamp, but a scan of the frescoe, found on the Internet, and meant only to illustrate this part of his work.

Years as Court Painter
By 1786 Goya was working in an official capacity for Charles III, the most enlightened Spanish monarch of the 18th century. Goya was appointed first court painter in 1799. His tapestry cartoons executed in the late 1780s and early 1790s were highly praised for their candid views of everyday Spanish life. With these cartoons Goya revolutionized the tapestry industry, which, until that time, had slavishly reproduced the Flemish genre scenes of the 17th-century painter David Teniers. Some of Goya's most beautiful portraits of his friends, members of the court, and the nobility date from the 1780s. 

I have been unable to find his tapestry cartoons on stamps, but here are a couple of paintings of his friends from that period.  For your viewing pleasure I have uploaded the similar Spanish stamps, issued 1958 in monochrome print.  I find it interesting to see how their appearance is totally different from the multi-colour reproductions of the paintings.  

Spain 1958. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Dona Isabel Cobos de Porcel. Panama 1978. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Dona Isabel Cobos de Porcel. Spain 1958. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Count Fernan Nunes. Manama 1972. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Count Fernan Nunes.
USSR 1985. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Souvenir sheet with portrait of Antonia Sarate. USSR 1985. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Stamp with portrait of Antonia Sarate.

Etchings and Later Paintings
In the winter of 1792, while on a visit to southern Spain, Goya contracted a serious disease that left him totally deaf and marked a turning point in his career. A mood of pessimism entered Goya's work. Between 1797 and 1799 he drew and etched the first of his great print series Los Caprichos (The Caprices), which, in their satirical humour, mock the social mores and superstitions of the time. 

The most famous of his paintings from this period is undoubtedly "The Naked Maya" (painted 1798), depicted on numerous stamps world wide.  It belongs to the Prado Museum in Madrid.  It is pretty large (97 x 190 cm), and shows clearly the then ideal for the female body.  

Spain 1930. Romanticist Painting. Goya. The Naked Maya, 1 pta. Spain 1930. Romanticist Painting. Goya. The Naked Maya, 4 pts. Spain 1930. Romanticist Painting. Goya. The Naked Maya, 10 pts.

This Bulgarian souvenir sheet, issued 1996 in commemoration of Goya's 250th birth anniversary, shows the two versions of this painting:  "The Naked Maya" and "The Clothed Maya". 

Speculation has it that the nude version used to be hidden behind the clothed version in the same picture frame, and that the lady was the Duchess of Alba, with whom Goya was infatuated. 

How he managed to get a noblewoman to pose this way (in Spain!) is only one more of the many mysteries surrounding this work.

As late as in 1930 the US government, through the U.S. Post Office Department, forbade and returned letters coming from Spain carrying this stamp because of the nudity that was at that time considered obscene !!  How times have changed :)  

  • Bulgaria 1996.  Souvenir sheet of the two versions of "Maya" by Goya. 

Bulgaria 1996. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Souvenir sheet with  two versions of Maya.

One of the nicest of Goya's paintings, "The Love Letter", painted 1812-1814, was issued by France for Stamp Day 1981.  The same painting, but in a totally different appearance, was issued by Burundi in 1968 for The International Week of Letter Writing, and by Bulgaria 1996 in commemoration of Goya's 250th birth anniversary..  It is amazing how the same painting can turn out so completely different in both colour, details and general appearance.  Note that all three stamps are proportionally the same size.  

France 1981. Romanticist Painting. Goya. The Love Letter. Burundi 1968. Romanticist Painting. Goya. The Love Letter. Bulgaria 1996. Romanticist Painting. Goya. The Love Letter.

Goya was a true master in depicting everyday's life in medieval Spain, and his captivating canvasses from the beginning of the 19th century, showing sceneries as chatting ladies, children playing around, and ordinary working people, add to the general impression of Goya being a man of the people, who painted life as it was, rather than a highly intellectual artist who would paint what the present ruler wanted to see.  

Bulgaria 1996. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Chatting Ladies ona Balcony. Fujeira 1971. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Forgers at work. Dubai 1968. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Boys with Mastiff.

Later series, such as Desastres de la Guerra (Disasters of War, 1810) and Disparates (Absurdities, 1820-1823), present more caustic commentaries on the ills and follies of humanity. The horrors of warfare were of great concern to Goya, who observed at first hand the battles between French soldiers and Spanish citizens during the bloody years of the Napoleonic occupation of Spain. In 1814 he completed Second of May, 1808 and Third of May, 1808 (both Prado). These paintings depict horrifying and dramatically brutal massacres of groups of unarmed Spanish street fighters by French soldiers. 

Both are painted, like so many of Goya's late works, in thick, bold strokes of dark colour punctuated by brilliant yellow and red highlights.  Below are shown fragments of these two paintings, considerably enlarged for a better view of the extremely detailed works. 

Goya concentrated exclusively on achieving a horrific effect, excluding everything that was irrelevant. They represent a revolutionary advance in the whole conception of the range and purpose of painting. For the first time war was depicted as futile and inglorious and for the first time there were no heroes only killers and the killed. 

Fujeira 1968. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Riot at Puerta del Sol, 2nd May 1808.

Bulgaria 1996. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Shootings of 3rd May 1808.

Laos 1984. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Family of Charles IV.

Straightforward candour and honesty are also present in Goya's later portraits, such as Family of Charles IV (1800, Prado), in which the royal family is shown in a completely unidealized fashion, verging on caricature, as a group of strikingly homely individuals. 

In our times we would say thet they were relaxed and casual, but looking closely at the painting there is nothing casual about the family group, on the contrary. 

The painting looks much like a colour photograph, as one would depict royal families in our modern times, when they are fully dressed up for some family celebration such as a wedding, jubilee or similar. 

It is not without reason that the Spaniards themselves have nicknamed this painting to "The grocer and his family, after having won the Grand Lottery" !! The question is then, what was the grocery the king dealt with :-)

  • Postes Lao 1984.  Family of Charles IV (painted 1800). 

Final Works
The Black Paintings (c. 1820, Prado), chilling scenes of witchcraft and other bizarre activities, are among the most outstanding works of the artist's late years. They were originally painted in fresco on the walls of Goya's country house and are now transferred to canvas. Painted predominantly in blacks, browns, and greys, they attest to his progressively darkening mood, possibly aggravated by an oppressive political situation in Spain that forced him to leave for France in 1824. 

Togo 1978. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Sabbath of Witches.
  • Togo 1978: Sabbath of Witches, painted 1821-22. 

  • Goya: Saturn devouring his son. Please note that this is not a stamp, but an image found on the Internet, and meant to illustrate this last part of his artistic career.  

Goya. Satrn Devouring his Son.

The painting "Saturn" for example (left), shows the god of Time and Old Age devouring his sons: Goya put it in his dining room! 

As you walk among these paintings in the Prado, you'll see the colours getting darker and darker, the figures getting weirder and weirder, as though Goya had painted them in an insane asylum, but it should be remembered that at the time these paintings were made, Goya was deaf, and it seemed to him that people without their voices became absourd and grotesque, and this is how he painted them. 

In Bordeaux he took up the then new art of lithography, producing a series of bullfight scenes, considered among the finest lithographs ever made. 

Although he returned to Madrid for a brief visit in 1826, he died in self-imposed exile in Bordeaux two years later, on April 16, 1828. During this final period of his life he produced over 60 etches and watercolors, and four bullfight pictures. 

  • Austria 1961. Toreador kills a bull. Albertina Museum, Vienna. The stamp is beautifully SON-cancelled in Linz. 
  • Bulgaria 1975. Tantal. Issued in a set of various European painters.

Austria 1961. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Etching. Toreador kills a bull.

Bulgaria 1975. Romanticist Painting. Goya. Etching. Tantal.

Goya is considered, with El Greco and Diego Velázquez, one of the greatest Spanish masters.  Just as Goya found inspiration in the work of Velázquez, so Goya in turn inspired Edouard Manet and Pablo Picasso. He left no immediate followers of consequence, but his influence was strongly felt in mid-19th-century painting and printmaking and in 20th-century art.  

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