The Angler Francisco de Goya Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This 1775 oil-on-canvas work by Francisco de Goya is a pastoral scene, covering two country activities, hunting and fishing. Yet it's the fishing activity that names the painting. The small boy fishing in the forefront of the painting isn't actually doing this for a living.

It's highly unlikely that he had a family at home depending on the results of his work so they could eat. He seems to be fishing for the fun of it. We don't know that, however. The two rather prominent men in the background are hunters and are engaged in a discussion, probably about strategy, or the best way to go about catching some prey.

Judging by their dress, they appear to be working class and it is likely that they had dependents who needed to hunt something as their families needed to eat. In the background, there are two figures talking to each other, but who or what they are we can't say.

This is a rather long, narrow painting. The height is 289 cm while the width is 110 cm. This was painted in the early days of Goya's life and it is full of light and life and sunlight. This is a big contrast with Goya's later years, which were full of pain and mental anguish. It is part of a series of paintings that was commissioned by wealthy, royal patrons of Goya, the Prince and Princess of Asturias. It can be viewed in the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid.

Goya was one of the greatest painters of the late 18th century and early 19th century. He is often considered to be the last of the old masters. He was celebrated during his lifetime and it was a cause of concern when he voluntarily exiled himself from his native Spain towards the end of his life. He didn't go too far, as he settled in Bordeaux in the neighbouring country of France. But Goya had a lot of inner struggle.

He had an undiagnosed disease that left him anxious and he also feared mental illness. His work in that period shows a great struggle between life and death, darkness and light. But his fears were enough to make him withdraw from public life and leave his country. This early painting shows that there was once a positive person with an optimistic outlook called Goya, as well as the one who struggled with darkness later in life.