Social and political features of Goya's work

Goya dedicated a great part of his artistic output to a pictorial description of the society in which he lived



The worst is to beg

(Desastres de la Guerra)

Unlike Renaissance painters, who admired and painted subjects from Classical Antiquity and the Christian tradition, Goya dedicated a great part of his artistic output to a pictorial description of the society in which he lived.

However, Goya did not limit himself to figurative painting as a way of simply photographing reality. His vision of the world was partisan, he had well-developed ideals, and as an artist he was in a state of constant evolution.

His critical vision was clearly and effectively shown in his prints and drawings. In these works he avoided the use of colour. By doing so they became an ideal medium for giving a simple, vibrant vision of reality. They also allowed the artist to create a darker, caricatured view of life.

By studying his prints and some of his oil paintings the following points about the painter's social, religious and political ideals emerge:

  • A belief in the Enlightenment, a movement which believed in the value of culture and which despised irrationality.

  • His vision of the different levels of the society of the Ancien Regime -the nobility, the clergy and The Third State-, the habits and behaviour of which he subjected to intense criticism.

  • The stance he adopted in favour of a more tolerant and liberal society. This meant that he was against the political activities of the majoritary sector of the Church after the War of Independence. He also attacked the censorship of the Inquisition.

  • His attitude to social problems, mistreatment of women, loveless marriages, prostitution and begging.

  • His militancy in favour of working people, and his opposition to exploitation of farm workers and tradesmen.

In terms of his bourgeois background and level of culture, Goya was a Spaniard of the Enlightenment and a moderate liberal. His ideals and beliefs moved in tune with the history of his country. However, his social and political works transcended his political beliefs. In his work, Goya, a sharp-eyed caricaturist, shows the contradictions of Spain at the end of the 18th century and the beginnings of the 19th. It is also clear from his work that Goya was an extraordinarily clear-sighted individual who, with an enviable intellectual grandeur, was able to juxtapose the greatness and the vileness of human nature.


Bibliography

Alcalá Flecha, Roberto. Literatura e ideología en el arte de Goya. Zaragoza: Diputación General de Aragón, 1988.


Francisco Javier García Marco


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