To follow up the Author Series I’m delighted to introduce the Artist Series. These outfits will embody the life and spirit of some of my favorite painters, photographers, and sculptors. And who better to start with than my favorite artist, Francisco de Goya. Goya worked in Spain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It was a turbulent time in the country. With virtually no middle class, Spanish society showed a dramatic divide between the rich aristocracy and the poor pueblo. In the later years of his life Goya witnessed Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and the brutal guerilla warfare that won the people their country back.
Goya was extremely successful in his lifetime, nabbing the prominent role of court painter in Madrid and quickly becoming popular for aristocratic portraits. But some of his best work were his uncommissioned etchings. Each series is a dark, biting social commentary on love, convention, and religion. Los Caprichos, and Les Desastres de Guerra are two of the more well known series’. Goya made exceptional strides in the medium of etching, he was one of the pioneers of aquatint, a technique that allowed tones and shading in etched work.
Despite the social status he enjoyed, Goya was a man of the people, a majo who enjoyed bullfighting and saw the deep flaws of aristocratic society. After a tragic illness early into his career, Goya became permanently deaf. This completely changed the way he saw the world and depicted it in his artwork. He became a silent observer, forever distanced from the people he painted. Below I’m making the sign language symbol for “G” (I hope, that’s what the internet told me).
I styled this look with a lacey, tie-neck shirt and skinny jeans modeled after the bullfighting uniform he wears in this famous self portrait. Leather boots and a fedora finished off the look. This gallery, on the second floor of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, houses some beautiful Velasquez paintings. Velasquez was a big influence on Goya, and as a beginner, he copied many Velasquez paintings for practice. The museum owns a huge number of Goya’s works, but many of them are kept in storage due to light sensitivity.
This ring says “Solo Goya.” I made it myself in a welding class. Goya is rumored to have had an affair with the beautiful Duchess of Alba and in one of his portraits of her she is pointing to the ground where the inscription “Solo Goya” is written. Interestingly, Goya never gave her this painting but kept it in his studio his whole life. This begs the question, was it reality or merely fantasy? Sexual liaisons aside, the two were good friends and when she died the Duchess left money to Goya’s son, Javier.
Goya’s work is dark, witty, powerful, and prolific. He took a turbulent age and revealed the horrors that defined it, the executions, the torture, the occult obsession, the corrupt church. But he also showed the people, not for how they wanted to be portrayed, but for how they were.
For further reading on Goya I highly recommend Robert Hughes’s Goya, a beautifully written biography of his life and work.
Photos by Stephanie Krist.