Goya aspired to high office. Until the very end, when Goya appeared to be working mostly for himself, he was almost entirely dependent on royal patronage. Hughes (2003: 47-48) makes this abundantly clear:
Throughout his working life, Goya would paint in the service of a series of absolute monarchs of the Spanish Bourbon line. For thirty-nine years, from 1789 till his death in France in 1828, he was steadily employed as a court painter. For nearly thirty of those years he was first court painter, the highest cultural office Spain had to offer in the visual arts. We are apt to think of him as a great outsider, a merciless critic of the society around him and a habitual protester against war, cruelty, and the violence of unjust authority. And so he was—in his drawings and prints and some of his paintings. But the bigger pictures, which are just as authentically his and make up the bulk of his work, tell a different story. Work for the Spanish court, supplemented by private portrait commissions, would be his bread and butter, and he rarely seems to have found it burdensome or chafed against its constraints… He was thankful to have such work, as much as he could get. Spain was not a country in which a painter could easily earn a good living. Patronage was very spotty and existed, to all intents, only in Madrid.
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Los Caprichos, plate 43. El sueño de la razón produce monstros, 1796-97. Etching and aquatint, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
Robert Hughes (2003: 171) introduces one of Goya's most famous images in one of the early chapters of his biography of the great artist:
“El sueño de la razón produce monstros,” “The sleep of reason brings forth monsters”… The “monsters” are bats and owls flying around the sleeper in his dream. The owl, here, is not an image of wisdom; it is the stereotype of mindless stupidity, which was how owls were seen in Spanish folklore in Goya’s time. The bats are creatures of night, and thus of ignorance—and possibly of bloodsucking evil as well, in their association with the devil. A sinister-looking cat glares directly at us over the small of the man’s back. That this dream-haunted sleeper is…Goya himself is shown by the owl on the left that offers him and artist’s chalk in a holder—the better to draw incorrect and misleading images with.
Goya made over sixty cartoons for the Royal Tapestry Factory between 1775 and 1792. According to Robert Hughes (2003: 84, 92), many of these these large scale paintings are "funny and slightly risque episodes of rural life," where "all is light and amiable."
After looking at Goya's portraits and genre pictures, how could we anticipate the Caprichos, "the terrible didactic realism" of the Desastres de la guerra" and the enigmatic and dark Disparates and Black Paintings which followed?
Hughes, Robert (2003). GOYA. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Fernando VII, 1814. Oil on canvas, Museo de Bellas Artes, Santander
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Boys Blowing Up a Bladder, 1778. Cartoon for second series of tapestries. Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
LORCA DESCRIBING THE BLACK PAINTINGS
Para buscar al duende no hay mapa ni ejercicio. Solo se sabe que quema la sangre como un tópico de vidrios, que agota, que rechaza toda la dulce geometría aprendida, que rompe los estilos, que hace que Goya, maestro en los grises, en los platas y en los rosas de la mejor pintura inglesa, pinte con las rodillas y los puños con horribles negros de betún...
Seeking the duende, there is neither map nor discipline. We only know it burns the blood like powdered glass, that it exhausts, rejects all the sweet geometry we understand, that it shatters styles and makes Goya, master of the greys, silvers and pinks of the finest English art, paint with his knees and fists in terrible bitumen blacks...
Federico García Lorca (1932) Theory and Play of the Duende. (English translation A.S. Kline.)
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Saturno devorando a su hijo (Saturn Devouring His Son), 1820-23. Oil transferred to canvas from mural. Museo del Prado, Madrid