Goya - A Painter for His Age

In the midst of Francisco Goya’s great success as First Court Painter to the king of Spain lay a deep unease. This was to be expressed in his art - as Goya’s ambitions went beyond the court’s demands for superficial tapestry designs and the churning out of portraits for the privileged. In a world dealing with the new modernity of the Enlightenment and a renewed collective examination of Spanish identity, Goya’s ambitions pined for something deeper. Discover an artist who sought to articulate his culture in both paintings and in prints, under the all-embracing aim of narrating the human condition for his time.

This class will be delivered online via the online platform Zoom. Enrolling students need to ensure they have an email, a reliable internet connection, microphone/speakers and access to a tablet, smartphone or computer.


  • Jesus Astiggaraga, Spanish Enlightenment Revisited (Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment), (Liverpool University Press, 2015).
  • Xavier Bray, Goya: The Portraits, (National Gallery Company, 2015).
  • Michael Helston, Painting in Spain During the Later Eighteenth Century, (University of Washington Press, 1989).
  • Gabriel Paquette, Enlightenment, Governance, and Reform in Spain and its Empire 1759-1808, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
  • Paolo Rapelli, Goya: Masters of Art, (Prestel, 2012).
  • Alfonso Perez Sanchez, Goya: The Complete Etchings and Lithographs, (Prestel, 1997).
  • Theresa Anne Smith, The Emerging Female Citizen: Gender and Enlightenment in Spain, (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
  • Sarah Symmons, Goya, (Phaidon Press, 1998).
  • Janis Tomlinson, Painting in Spain: El Greco to Goya, 1561 -1828, (Calman and King Ltd, 1997).
  • Tara Zanardi, Framing Majismo: Art and Royal Identity in Eighteenth-Century Spain, (Penn State University Press, 2016).


  • Spain in the second half of the eighteenth century and Goya’s childhood: Due in part to the new Bourbon monarchy, French cultural identity had a strong influence upon Spain in the first half of the eighteenth century. Goya was born in Fuendetodos in Aragon, at a time when Spain was undergoing a collective renewal of its traditional identity. Simultaneous to this was the pan-European influence of the Enlightenment on Spanish culture. We will see that a context for Goya’s life is to be found in the cultural entwinement of these two influences.
  • Apprenticeship, visit to Italy and early years in Madrid: We will see how Goya’s apprenticeship, the influence of national identity on Spanish art, his travel to Italy and the court culture in Madrid, defined Goya’s early life and career.
  • Appointed Assistant Director of Painting to the Royal Academy of San Fernando and First Court Painter to the King: Success for Goya came with ambivalence. In this context, the disparity in the quality of Goya’s portraits tells us a great deal about how Goya viewed his success and those who patronised him in the court of Madrid.
  • Ilness, Deafness and the Caprices (Los Caprichos) prints: We will see how Goya began moving beyond the public expectations put upon him, to forge an original means of conveying the human condition and its contradictions, within the broader context of Spanish society. This was to become particularly evident in his small “cabinet” sized paintings and via the medium of printmaking.
  • The Family of Charles IV, The Peninsula War and the Spanish War of Independence: At the dawn of the nineteenth century, Goya painted the most unconventional and informal state portrait of the Spanish royal family in history. Only seven years later, the Spanish monarchy would fall and with the Napoleonic Wars, Spain would be plunged into a period of instability. We will examine Goya’s resulting, posthumously titled prints, The Disasters of War. These works have come to be seen as among the greatest images of the human condition during war time, in the history of art.
  • The Reactionary monarchy of Ferdinand VII and Goya’s withdrawal from public life: Goya’s work ethic would not be diminished on his retirement from public life. Rural Spain was in agreement with the new King Ferdinand VII, in reacting against the “foreign” ideas and influence of the European Enlightenment. Goya would express this reactive culture in oil murals on the walls of two rooms in his country house; in what have come to be known as his ‘Black paintings’. Fearing political reprisals, in his late-seventies, Goya would join many of his liberal friends in exile from his days at court, in the French city of Bordeaux. He would die there in 1828.


By the end of this course, student should be able to:

  1. Gain an understanding of the life and career of Francisco Goya, within the context of Spanish art history, evolving late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Spanish cultural identity and the pan-European Enlightenment.
  2. Recognise Goya’s stylistic derivations from other contemporary and historical Spanish artists, as well as his originality.
  3. See how Goya’s works of art embody conflicting forces within Spanish culture and how they played out within Goya’s own identity.
  4. Historically contextualise Goya’s works of art, while being cautious of over-reading explanations into images that for now, remain elusive.
$39 Limited

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20 Nov

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