Francisco Goya and his demons
Dark motifs, morbid figures, and deformed faces are some of the things that characterize Spanish painter Francisco Goya’s later works. Not something to hang on your wall in a welcoming lounge, perhaps, but they are fascinating pieces of work that explore the darker parts of the human mind and deserve to be studied. The kind of pessimism that is portrayed there resonates with you long after you’ve seen the paintings and appear like a nightmarish portrayal of the demons we all have within us, perhaps. Art does not have to be conventionally beautiful to be strike a chord within us, which these paintings are a great example of.
Goya is not only known for this collection of dark art that he created at the end of his life – he is also a painter who was important when it came to other styles. His name is well known in the world of painting and printing, and his works hold a special place in history, for a number of reasons. Not only is he one of Spain’s most important painters of the 18th and 19th century, he was also very famous during his lifetime and has painted religious motifs in basilicas and chapels, tapestry cartoons, done prints, as well as been a court painter for Spanish kings from 1786 and onwards. His skills in portrait painting are especially well known and he is considered to be one of the best in modern times, which was he also did for the Spanish royal family. We can also see some more unconventional ones, like the famous La maja desnuda – a quite daring nude for his time.
As a contrast to these works, he later in life started creating more morbid and dark pieces, and you can tie this to the world around him and even see elements of social commentary. Even though the painter’s own thoughts and opinions where never explicitly stated, he has a number of prints and paintings which seem to deal with the war of the time and serve as a sort of social commentary on these events. The Peninsular War and the battles in Spain following 1807 seem to have had an influence on Goya, as we see with the series of prints called “Disasters of War” as well as the paintings referring to specific historical dates – The Second of May 1808 and The Third of May 1808, depicting battle and scenes of war. These depictions of war are something universal that can be tied to all wars ever fought, showing the fear and bloodshed that they cause.
Even before this, darker themes had started to show in his works – mental asylums, insanity and monstrous figures had become motifs he would use and the theme of corruption has also been identified in his works. Goya was mysterious figure and we mostly just have his paintings and prints to try to gauge what he thought and felt. The morbid so called “black paintings” following his mysterious illness resulting in the loss of his hearing have often been tied to his mental state, and these themes also seem to show a growing pessimism regarding the world around him. The “black paintings” includes fourteen paintings that are all quite morbid, one of the most famous one depicting a crazed-looking Saturn eating his own son.
Many have speculated about Goya’s mental state, and the internal demons that must have been haunting him to create such morbid, dark figures, but disregarding that, there is something to these paintings that seems quite universal and appears to have struck a chord in the human race. Francisco Goya’s paintings live on to this day as magnificent works of art, but there is something inside of us that can’t help but focus on the darker paintings of his later period. Perhaps humanity has always been fascinated by demons and decay, but it is when looking at these darker images that we can reflect on the meanings behind these works and what they symbolize for each and every one of us – the demons they show us can maybe give a glimpse into our own demons that we try so hard to repress.