Francisco de Goya was a prominent artist from Spain during the 1700s. He was the court painter of King Charles III of Spain. Besides the many paintings he did, Goya also was a master print maker, producing many long series of prints in his lifetime and chronicled history as well. His lifetime marked a shift in art world. Painters and other artists were beginning to leave behind the legacy of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. New artistic forms and styles were popping up throughout the world. Goya was special though at once being considered the last great Old Master, a term used for many of the prominent, influential Renaissance artists throughout Europe, but also as the first modern painter. No matter what category Goya is grouped with his art remains a fantastic treat for all who see it.
Though Goya did produce portraits in his time, they were mostly of the royal family whom he worked for. Most of his paintings, as well as his prints, were of a very different nature. Action is usually shown, as well as elements of darkness and horror. An example of this is Goya’s painting Exorcism. Two figures are shown, one robed in white and the other in mustard yellow. They are bent, kneeling, one trying to exorcise the other. Behind them four horrific figures stand. Their features are frightening and somewhat inhuman. One holds a doll, one reads from some sort of manuscript, while the last carries a basket full of what appear to babies. Owls swoop overhead, circling the group of figures. Even the background is dark and frightening. The sky is black, as well as most of the ground in the foreground of the painting. A city can be seen in the distance to the left of the group but we don’t know if it is the safety the tormented soul longs for or if that two is just a mirage created by these evil beings.
Not all of Goya’s paintings are this dark in theme. But the threat of the unknown, a hint of the evil in the world, is ever present in his work. An example of this can be seen in another painting of Goya’s titled Majas on a Balcony. What at first glance looks like a painting of two beautiful women changes slightly upon closer inspection. Behind the two women clad in white are two men, dark and imposing. Both stare at the pretty young girls and we can only guess as to their intentions, though we have the feeling they are not as wholesome as they should be. Though not as obvious as some as Goya’s other work, this painting too has the elements of darkness and the unknown.Whether he is counted amongst the Old Masters or at the forefront of a new era of artistic talent, Goya is in every sense a Master Painter. His work has all of the artistic and imaginative qualities to entrance any age, any generation with his work, whether several hundred years ago or today.