Goya’s life was split in two near its midpoint by an illness that very nearly killed him when he was forty-six years old. If he had died, he would have left a large body of work establishing him as one of Spain’s finest artists and its only great representative of the eighteenth-century style. But he lived, and the traumatic experience released powers never before fully expressed. During the latter half of his life, Goya became the genius we think of him as having been from the first. In this late blooming he is exceptional among painters, whose mature work is usually prefigured in their early paintings, meaning a re-working of established formula.
“Moral reflection, in Goya’s prints and not a few of his paintings, moves from being a philosophical exercise into a sort of frenzy, a despairing assault on a world of terminal evil. Greed, whoring, pederasty, witchcraft and the religious bigotry that was its mirror image, the brutality of the low and the myopic arrogance of the high, and above all the limitless cruelties inflicted in the name of orthodoxy (by the Inquisition) and political conquest (by the invading French and their guerrilla opponents): these possess him as they have possessed no other artist before or since. Seen through his encyclopedic vision of folly and cruelty, Goya’s Spain is more like Dean Swift’s Ireland than Voltaire’s Europe.”Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,956813-2,00.html#ixzz1DnuYfmZX
His youth was not necessarily the honest and earthy ideal picture of a youth pure and free from the degeneracy of the aristocracy. In fact, it may be closer to that of a Caravaggio; quarrelsome, undisciplined, and uneducated youth at the mercy of his emotions. Goya’s reason for leaving his home town in 1763 may or may not have been related with certain complications, including knifings, that resulted from amorous adventures. Ambition would have supplied just as reasonable a stimulus for his departure, since Goya had a fantastic capacity for work; a really compulsive need to keep at it as well as a great respect for money.
Eventually, after a lengthly period, Goya began to gain good favor at court was doing well at countering the intrigues that, naturally, began to be perpetrated against him. So much is made of Goya’s humanity, his liberal aesthetic and social conscience, his independence and his fearlessness, that it is easy to forget how many years he had to spend in winning a position that enabled him to indulge in these virtues.
He was nagged by an insecurity left over from his early poverty, and he could be irascible, envious, and merciless with an opponent over a small point. Impatient by nature, often rude by impulse, he worked hard at curbing his temper before influential patrons whom he despised. Madrid fel to him eventually and he became the first Spanish painter of consequence since Velasquez. He was the leading Spanish painter, no matter how many functionaries among his colleagues might nominally outrank him. And as an unrivaled portraitist, he was making money.
This was the situation in1792 when an illness that has never been satisfactorily identified struck him. For more than a year he could not paint. He was left stone deaf , but this isolating misfortune apparently crystallized and released the genius that had been checked by a fuller contact with the world. A new Goya emerged- Goya the humane and bitter social observer, the scourging and despairing delineator of vice and cruelty, the fantasist whose pictured nightmares explored the most desperate realities.