Francisco de Goya (1746–1828), Spain’s most celebrated artist, is widely considered the father of modern art. Not only a brilliant observer of everyday life and Spain’s troubled past, he was also a gifted portrait painter and social commentator par excellence.
His genius was reappraised in the landmark exhibition Goya: The Portraits at the National Gallery, London (October 2015–January 2016). This film draws from the exhibition to look in depth at Goya’s eventful life. Extensive location footage, Goya’s revealing letters, and a unique presentation of masterpieces from great collections across the world build a fascinating portrait of the artist and the colorful world he painted.
Influenced by Rembrandt and Diego Velázquez, Goya explored a new realism where he did not flatter and was not afraid to reveal what he saw physically and psychologically. Yet this approach did not discourage major commissions from powerful individuals seeking the prestige of being painted by the best artist of the day. All of Goya’s sitters—royalty, aristocrats, politicians, and close friends—were subjected to his highly modern approach that captured rapid changes of expression, gesture, and emotion. Goya’s powerful vision and technical brilliance make him one of the most admired and revered artists in the history of Western art.