Why is this mural made?

This artistic mural represents an invitation to discover more about this artistic figure by investigating Goya’s letters, especially those he sent to his childhood friend, Martín Zapater. These are the main sources for finding out about his personality and what his life was like; as every artist has a personal profile that undoubtedly conditions his career.

Looking at the Aragonese painter, his life and his work, it can be understood what he meant for the history of art in our country; as these texts reveal more than the academic Goya. They also show his human, tenacious, sensitive side, his character and great personality; as well as where his artistic influences and motivations came from. Like any artist who embarks on the adventure of going to live at court, especially at the time of which we speak, and after being born in a small town in Aragon, living in a city of provinces like Zaragoza; it is easy to imagine that deciding to live in the great capital of Madrid would not be without its struggles. His letters reveal the vicissitudes of paying for his house, the birth of his children – it should be remembered that his marriage to Josefa Bayeu produced 8 children – Antonio was born in Zaragoza in 1774, while another 6 were born in Madrid. All of them (Antonio, Eusebio, Vicente, one born prematurely, María del Pilar, Francisco de Paula, Hermenegilda and Francisco Javier) died at birth or when they were very young, except for the last: Javier Goya and Bayeu, born on December 4, 1784, who became the painter’s heir. All this undoubtedly leaves its mark on a person, but at first he was still an artist trying to make his way. After spending the initial part of his career in his home city, he arrived in Madrid in January 1775 to work under the direction of Antón Raphael Mengs, the first chamber painter and artistic director of the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Bárbara, on a of tapestry cartoon project destined for the Royal Houses. Goya had yet to make his way as the great artist that he would be.

Looking at his letters, it is possible to understand his personality and why for specific moments he coined the famous phrase, “Fantasy, isolated from reason, only produces impossible monsters. Joined to it, on the other hand, it is the mother of art and the source of her desires.” This phrase, by the way, can also be seen in another small ceramic mural in his native Fuendetodos, next to the Studio de Arte 4 workshop gallery, at the back, passing through the arch of San Roque towards the church.

Goya could never have thought his personal correspondence to his best friend would have become so valuable; as perhaps he also never imagined he would become the artistic figure he became for the world. That is why the letters represent a real portrait of his personality, since they were never meant to be published, unlike what happens in any social network today. Although, in a way, there is a certain similarity; because sometimes we know what many people are up to at any time of day, with unabashed declarations of what they are doing or saying to friends or the world in general. The big difference with these letters from Goya is that the message on his ‘social network’ was done by himself.

I have always wondered if Goya would have liked his personal letters to have been exposed to the world. But after spending hours reading and analysing the harmlessness of his texts and his ways of expression –  affable, affectionate, respectful and full of force – I tend to think it is highly likely that he would; but of course we will never know this.

The truth is that Goya became a character in history many decades ago and that deprives him of the anonymity of any mortal citizen, since no one dedicates any time studying the life of an unknown person. Well, not unless they become romantically linked with someone famous; and then you can’t watch the television without them appearing. Can you imagine how tongues would wag today if the Duchess of Alba had spent the hours she did posing for paintings by Goya? It would have been the main story on all the television celebrity gossip programmes.

In short, his series of letters is a very faithful account of his life from a young man in his twenties until maturity at 55 years of age, and helps us to understand how he became the genius that we all admire today; not only for his paintings, but also for his life.

Javier Abrego