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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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Often identified by a variation of names such as Head of a Dog, A Dog and The Half-Submerged Dog, The Dog is the name given to one of Goya's sequence of Black Paintings.

It was found in his house "Quinta delSordo" on the banks of Manzanares near Madrid. Goya Article-The Dog painting shows a dog's head gazing upwards and lost in the vastness of the rest of the picture.

Its head pokes cheekily out of the brown sludge even as the deadness of the yellow sky depicts there is no hope or a saviour.

The emptiness of the dark sloping close to the bottom of the painting brings out the feeling of weakness and desolation. Unlike his previous handiwork, Goya's black paintings are bereft of hope and optimism and they have a terrible resonance that is often associated with Goya's deafness and darkened vision after the appalling 1792 illness.

His early work like the tapestry scenes of everyday fun (for the Spanish Court) and the portraits going to a show at the National Gallery in London show a bright and sociable Francisco Goya.

Francisco Goya was born on March 30th, 1746 in Northern Spain. His family later moved to Zaragoza where his father worked as a gilder. When Goya was fourteen years, he was apprenticed to Jose Luzan, a local painter and later went to Italy to study art.

After returning to his native home in 1771, he worked on frescoes of the local cathedral and the works are articulated in the decorative rococo routine, which defined Goya's characteristic style. Owing to his popular success, Goya became an established portrait painter to the Spanish nobility. In 1780 he was elected to the Royal Academy of San Fernando where he was later named the king's painter (1786) and court painter in 1789. Goya spent his last years in Bordeaux after he voluntarily went into exile in France.

From the year 1775 to 1792, Goya worked on cartoon paintings for the royal tapestry workshop in Madrid. It marked his most important period in art where he did his first genre pictures. The experience helped him study human behaviour. Goya was also influenced by neoclassicism, which was quickly gaining popularity over the grand rococo style. His study of Velazquez works in the royal assortment spawned a freestyle and more spontaneous painting style.

However, after a serious illness left Goya permanently deaf and isolated, he got occupied with inventions of his imaginations that criticised and satirised human behaviour. His religious frescoes now exuded an earthy realism that is unique to religious art. After the Spanish monarchy was restored, Goya was pardoned for serving the French government, but the new king did not appreciate most of his work. It was then that he adopted a unique personal style portrayed in the Black Paintings series. Executed on the walls of his secluded house in Madrid, Francisco expresses his darkest visions almost similar to the satirical Disparates, a sequence of etchings also known as Proverbios.

La Maja Desnuda was considered the first profane female nude in Western art. It is a picture of Venus lying on a green velvet couch with pillows and spread and was first listed in 1800. Its identity remains uncertain, but speculations reveal that famous models like the Duchess of Alba (sometimes thought to have an affair with Goya) and PepitoTudo (Manuel de Godoy's mistress), featured in the painting. The painting was mentioned again in 1808 along its companion, The Clothed Maja after Manuel Godoy's property was confiscated. La Maja Desnuda entered the Prado Museum in 1901 through the Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando where it had been displayed from 1808 to 1813 and in 1836 to 1901.

Also known as The Charge of Mamlukes, The Second of May depicts one of the many rebellions against the French occupation in Spain that spawned the Peninsular War. The crowd views the Mamelukes as Moors, which provokes a frightful response. The crowd charges on the Mamlukes, resulting in a fierce melee. Speculations suggest that Goya was not present during the actual fight, but his supposed presence was first put forward in a book printed forty years after his death. The painting did not please the king, so it was not hung publicly until many years later.