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Artists Francisco Goya
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Francisco Goya

Spanish Painter and Printmaker

Movement: Romanticism

Born: March 30, 1746 - Fuendetodos, Spain

Died: April 16, 1828 - Bordeaux, France

Francisco Goya Timeline


"I have had three masters; Nature, Velasquez, and Rembrandt."
Francisco Goya
"The object of my work is to report the actuality of events."
Francisco Goya
"My work is very simple. My art reveals idealism and truth."
Francisco Goya

"Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels."

Francisco Goya Signature


Goya occupies a unique position within the history of Western art, and is often cited as both an Old Master and the first truly modern artist. His art embodies Romanticism's emphasis on subjectivity, imagination, and emotion, characteristics reflected most notably in his prints and later private paintings. At the same time, Goya was an astute observer of the world around him, and his art responded directly to the tumultuous events of his day, from the liberations of the Enlightenment, to the suppressions of the Inquisition, to the horrors of war following the Napoleonic invasion. Both for its inventiveness and its political engagement, Goya's art had an enormous impact on later modern artists. His unflinching scenes from the Peninsular War presaged the works of Pablo Picasso in the 20th century, while his exploration of bizarre and dreamlike subjects in the Caprichos laid the foundation for Surrealists like Salvador Dalí. Goya's influence extends to the 21st century, as contemporary artists have also drawn inspiration from the artist's grotesque imagery and searing social commentary.

Key Ideas

Goya's formal portraits of the Spanish Court are painted in a lavish virtuoso style, and highlight the wealth and power of the royal household. On the other hand, the works have been seen to contain veiled, even sly, criticisms of the ineffectual rulers and their circle.
Goya is one of the greatest printmakers of all time, and is famous for his achievements in etching and aquatint. He created four major print portfolios during his career: the Caprichos, Proverbios, Tauromaquia, and The Disasters of War. Perhaps even more than his paintings, these works reflect the artist's originality and his true opinions about the social and political events of his day. The subject matter of his etchings veers from dreamlike to grotesque, documentary to imaginary, and humorous to harshly satirical.
Women occupy a central place within Goya's oeuvre, and his images of majas (the stylish and outlandish members of Spain's lower classes in the 18th and 19th centuries), witches, and queens are some of his most daring and modern interpretations, depicting women in possession of their own powers, whether political or sexual. Many of these works have led to speculation about Goya's private life, for example his supposed affair with the Duchess of Alba.
Goya's late paintings are among the darkest and most mysterious of his creations. His series of 14 paintings from his farmhouse on the outskirts of Madrid (the so-called "Black Paintings") contain images of violence, despair, evil, and longing. They are the pessimistic expressions of an aging, deaf artist who was disillusioned with society and struggling with his own sanity. Their exploration of the dark forces at work in his own subconscious foreshadows the art of the Expressionists and Surrealists in the 20th century.


Francisco Goya Photo


Francisco de Goya y Lucientes was born in Fuendetodos, Spain, to a lower-middle-class family. The fourth of six children, he spent the majority of his childhood in Zaragoza, a nearby city where his family was originally from. He attended a local public school, where he met his lifelong friend Martin Zapater; their letters provide one of the few direct sources of information about Goya's early years in Madrid.

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Francisco Goya Biography Continues

Important Art by Francisco Goya

The below artworks are the most important by Francisco Goya - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Charles IV of Spain and His Family (1800)

Charles IV of Spain and His Family (1800)

Artwork description & Analysis: This portrait of the Spanish royal family was made at the height of Goya's career as a court painter. Unlike many of his earlier society and court portraits, which hewed more closely to the genre's conventions of flattery, this painting signals a new direction for the artist in its unflinchingly (some might say grotesquely) realistic depictions of its sitters. The artist based the composition on Velázquez's Las Meninas, which also includes a self-portrait of the artist in the act of painting the royal family. Here, Goya depicts himself in the shadows, standing in front of a large canvas (presumably the same one we now behold) in the far left background.

At the center of the composition, brilliantly lit, is the figure of Queen Maria Luisa, who holds the hand of her son Francisco (in vivid red) and her daughter, Maria Isabel. King Charles stands to her left: widely thought to be an ineffectual leader, his off-center placement provides a clue about the power dynamic of the family as well as their foibles and failings. Indeed, the Queen was believed to hold the real power, along with Prime Minister Manuel Godoy, with whom she had an affair (her illegitimate children are at the far left of the canvas, one in blue, the other in orange). Goya's subversive critique - disguised as a glorifying portrait - of the corruption of Charles IV's reign is further enhanced by the subject of a painting hanging in the background, which shows the Biblical story of the immoral and incestuous Lot and his daughters.

From a technical standpoint, the painting dazzles with detail, especially in the luxurious garments and jewels worn by the family. Goya's brushwork is loose and spontaneous in other areas of the composition. Rembrandt's influence on the artist is apparent in this work, notably in the play of light and shadow and in the overall warm tonality of Goya's palette.

Oil on canvas - Museo Nacional Del Prado

The Black Duchess (1797)

The Black Duchess (1797)

Artwork description & Analysis: Goya was himself the subject of scandal and rumor particularly when it came to his relationships with members of Spain's social elite. For instance, he was suspected of conducting a love affair with the aristocratic Maria Cayetana de Silva, the 13th Duchess of Alba, one of the most famous women in Spain. Their liaison probably began after the death of the Duke of Alba in 1796 (Goya had painted portraits of both husband and wife in 1795). Goya was no doubt taken with the Duchess's haughty beauty, with her curvaceous figure, alabaster complexion, and voluminous black curls.

Painted the year after the Duke's death, this portrait of the Duchess depicts her in mourning black, wearing the traditional costume of a maja, one of the very stylish members of Spain's lower classes known for their bold behavior. In posing as a maja, the Duchess was making an attempt to connect with the masses, despite her elevated social standing. Standing with one hand on her hip, she points toward the ground with her other hand, where Goya has lightly drawn his name in the dun-colored sand. When the painting was restored, the word "solo" was uncovered next to Goya's name, implying that the artist was her only love (though she wears two rings on her hand, one inscribed "Alba", the other "Goya").

Though the painting was commissioned by the Duchess, Goya kept it in his possession for 15 years, indicating his strong attachment to the work and its subject, or, possibly, the Duchess' inability to accept a work that so openly flaunted an affair. Much of the imagery that would populate Goya's prints and drawings following the end of their affair - women as fickle temptresses, men as cuckolded fools, lovers tortured by uncontrollable passions - has lead art historians to suspect that his heart had been broken by the Duchess.

Oil on panel - New York Hispanic Society

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (c. 1797-1799)

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (c. 1797-1799)

Artwork description & Analysis: Goya is as famous for his prints as he is for his paintings, and is known as one of the great masters of the etching and aquatint techniques. The first of his four major print series was Los Caprichos, which consists of 80 numbered and titled plates. The artist's stated purpose in making the series was to illustrate "the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance, or self-interest have made usual." Goya began working on the plates around 1796, after an undiagnosed illness left him deaf and drove him to retreat into a self-imposed isolation.

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, plate 43 in the series, depicts a sleeping man (thought to be Goya himself), surrounded by a swarm of strange flying creatures. These are the "monsters" of the title, which invade the mind when reason is surrendered to imagination and dreams. Many of the animals Goya depicts hold symbolic meaning: the owls and bats represent ignorance and evil, while the watchful lynx at the artist's feet - a creature known for its ability to see in darkness - alerts us to the importance of distinguishing fact from fiction. The bat with the goat head may be a satanic reference, and allusions to witchcraft can be found throughout the series. However, as with many of Goya's prints, the intended meaning of the various symbols can be hard to deduce with certainty.

The Caprichos introduces the dark subject matter and mood that would continue to define Goya's work until the end of his life. These works, based on extensive drawings in pen and ink, were expressions of the artist's personal beliefs and ideas, created outside his official work for the court and influential patrons. These prints were profoundly influential to later Surrealists like Dali in their mingling of realism and dream symbolism.

Etching and aquatint - Private Collection

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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Francisco Goya
Interactive chart with Francisco Goya's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart


Diego VelazquezDiego Velazquez

Personal Contacts

Manuel de Godoy
Sebastian Martinez y Perez



Influences on Artist
Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya
Years Worked: 1760 - 1823
Influenced by Artist


Édouard ManetÉdouard Manet
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Salvador DalíSalvador Dalí
Jake and Dinos ChapmanJake and Dinos Chapman

Personal Contacts

Juan Valdes Melendez
Leandro Fernandez de Moratin


Conceptual ArtConceptual Art

Useful Resources on Francisco Goya




The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.


Goya: The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art Recomended resource

by Fred Licht


by Robert Hughes

Goya in The Twilight Of Enlightenment

by Janis Tomlinson

Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) and the Spanish Enlightenment Recomended resource

By James Voorhies
The Met Museum
October 2013

The Dark & Light of Francisco Goya

By Colm Toibin
NY Books
December 18, 2014

From Princes to Paupers: How Goya's Portraits Tell the Story of Spain Recomended resource

By Michael Prodger
The Guardian
September 26, 2015

Goya's Dark Etchings From a Past Full of Horrors

By Martha Schwendener
The New York Times
October 29, 2011

The Nerdwriter: The Most Disturbing Painting Recomended resource

The powerful Saturn Devouring His Son by Goya

Lecture - Goya: The Most Spanish of Artists Recomended resource

Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Goya's Third of May, 1808

Smithsonian - Art historical analysis intro

El Sueno de la Razon Produce Monstruos

Analysis by San Jose Museum of Art

More Interesting Videos with Francisco Goya
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Content compiled and written by Ximena Kilroe

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Ximena Kilroe
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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