goya paintings and social justice
After the six years of absolutism that followed Ferdinand’s return to the throne on 1 January 1820, Rafael del Riego initiated an army revolt with the intent of restoring the 1812 Constitution. By March, the king was forced to agree, but by September 1823, after an unstable period, a French invasion supported by an alliance of the major powers had removed the constitutional government. The last prints were probably not completed until after the Constitution was restored, though certainly before Goya left Spain in May 1824. Their balance of optimism and cynicism makes it difficult to relate them directly to particular moments in these rapidly moving events. 
Plate 18: Enterrar y callar (Bury them and keep quiet). Atrocities, starvation and human degradation described as the “prodigious flowering of rage”. 
Goya occupies a unique position within the history of Western art, and is often cited as both an Old Master and the first truly modern artist. His art embodies Romanticism’s emphasis on subjectivity, imagination, and emotion, characteristics reflected most notably in his prints and later private paintings. At the same time, Goya was an astute observer of the world around him, and his art responded directly to the tumultuous events of his day, from the liberations of the Enlightenment, to the suppressions of the Inquisition, to the horrors of war following the Napoleonic invasion. Both for its inventiveness and its political engagement, Goya’s art had an enormous impact on later modern artists. His unflinching scenes from the Peninsular War presaged the works of Pablo Picasso in the 20 th century, while his exploration of bizarre and dreamlike subjects in the Caprichos laid the foundation for Surrealists like Salvador DalГ. Goya’s influence extends to the 21 st century, as contemporary artists have also drawn inspiration from the artist’s grotesque imagery and searing social commentary.
Spanish Painter and Printmaker
Printmaking is often considered a secondary medium, a poor cousin to painting and sculpture. Goya’s prints are an exception, for alongside a handful of his exceptional portrait paintings from the 1780s and 1790s they represent the pinnacle of his technical and creative achievement as an artist. Without them it is very likely that he would not have achieved his exalted place in art history.
No artist anywhere has been a more acute social observer than Francisco Goya (1746-1828). His “Los Caprichos” prints offer a critical commentary on everything from the health system to the role of religion in 18th-century Spain. They make a plea for social justice.
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes began what would be an enormously productive career at an early age. Born in Fuendetodos, Spain in 1746, he was only 12 years old when he apprenticed in the studio of painter José Luzán y Martinez in Zaragoza. It would take him nearly 20 years and several prestigious commissions to accomplish his goal of admission to Spain’s Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. From that moment, however, his rise to prominence was rapid; appointed Assistant Director of the Academy in 1785, he was named pinto del rey the next year, and, in 1789, three months before the outbreak of the French Revolution, court painter to Charles IV. By 1799, when he undertook his first etchings, he was director of the Academy and one of Spain’s most prominent painters.
First published in 1799, Los Caprichos exposed the vice and corruption that led Spain to be branded as “Black Spain” in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the 80 etchings that comprise the series, Goya depicted the peasantry’s superstitious belief in witchcraft, the arrogance of the nobility, and the widespread corruption of the Catholic Church. To avoid alienating powerful individuals at Court and to protect himself from the wrath of the Inquisition, however, the artist masked his satire by means of images that would inspire multiple interpretations. For example, in plate 68, two nude witches, one old and withered, the other young and voluptuous, ride a broomstick. The image clearly refers to the belief in witchcraft, but, on a less obvious level, it also addresses the issue of prostitution within Spanish society. This subtle layering of meanings, seen with particular brilliance in Los Caprichos is one of the hallmarks of Goya’s artistry.
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
The Caprichos give a pitiless image of social and moral standards. No matter who they are, no one escapes criticism -dignitaries, doctors, lawyers, women, old people. Here a little
old lady preens herself vainly in front of the mirror and does not notice how ugly she is, nor the laughter of those present. This could be regarded as a swipe at the queen, Maria Luisa, and her affairs with young men. But Goya was aiming higher than this. One of the basic themes of his Caprichos is the
inability of people to see beyond self-delusion and deceit. The glance into the mirror in this Capricho is clearly not a moment of self-awareness, but the continuation of an illusion.