The Terrible Turn of Goya


Born in Spain in 1746, Francisco Goya began live in modest means. Growing up to study art in Italy, he spent time in Rome, where artistic culture was booming and trained to increase his skills on the canvas. After rigorous study work his own paintings became appreciated as he won prizes for his work and began to accumulate some acclaim. With his work starting off fairly bright colourful and romantic, the sad part of Goya’s tale is that this did not continue all the way to his end. As the French invaded Spain the violence and cultural shock took a great toll on the artist and it is clear that his work and his mindset began to change. Soon he would suffer from an illness that would render him deaf and cause him even more issues with his mentality, thus his final works are some of his darkest, yet still some of his most famous. Below are some of his works that show the progression from light to dark.

The Holy Family with Saint Joachim and Saint Anne Before the Eternal Glory – 1769

This lengthily titled number shows the skill and temperament of Goya in his early days. This clearly joyous and heavenly depicts the Virgin Mary and her parents alongside a cloud riding  God. Cherubs sit in the back also atop the fluffy thick clouds of above while a bright yet soft glow casts across the figures. The lighting and colour here all reflect the style of other famed painters of the time, but objectively it is an enlightening piece.

The Swing – 1779

A decade later and Goya was still mastering his ability to show the human figure as well as his rendering of clothing. The swing shows young women and children all sat around a rope swing while one woman sits upon it. Most of those gathered seem to be of high class as they are dressed in fine clothes. Though there is no doubt more to the painting it seems to be a fairly playful and light depiction of a day in Spain.

The Second Of May 1808 & The Third Of May 1808

Though Goya had dabbled in the occasional piece about Witches at this point he had spent a lot of time creating portraits as he had been the court painter since the 1780s. These new pictures however were much different from his regular output, the first famously shows swordsmen on horses trampling over others while bloody stabbings occur all around. The Third of May has a different feel, one of terror, as the man who makes a clear ‘X’ in his stance, stares down the barrel of a firing squad.

Saturn Devouring His Son – 1819+

This is one of Goya’s most infamous and shocking pieces. From the collection called his Black paintings, which were 14 pieces he made on the walls of his home (probably never intended to be seen by others), this frightening piece is somewhat disturbing. Showing the most violent part of the Greek mythological story of Chronos eating his child from fear of being overthrown, this painting shows all the gore and monstrosity. Swamped in black and with the soul cutting glare of Saturn, this hellish rendition shows that Goya’s final years were clearly troubled.