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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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Lying behind the beautiful oil paintings and etchings of Francisco de Goya were some of the finest drawing skills that European art history has ever seen and this section uncovers his achievements as a draughtsman.

The self portrait found to the left is dated at around 1795–97 and is amongst Goya's most famous drawings. The way in which it enables us to enter the mind of this complex individual is extraordinary and underlines just what can be achieved in such a simple medium, when used in the right way. For this particular artwork he used a combination of brush and gray wash on laid paper and it is now a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This famous institution holds 67 of his drawings within its permanent collection.

The different mediums in which the artist was involved would impact different parts of Europe in different ways. His native Spain was particularly enthralled by his paintings, for example, where as his etchings drew particular praise from art critics within the French capital, Paris. It was here that his influence of Edouard Manet began whilst others members in and around the impressionists also found a uniqueness to his work.

It is believed that this productive Spaniard produced around 1,000 drawings during his lifetime, at the best guess, and these were a mixture of individual artworks and study pieces for later paintings and etchings. The eight sketchbooks that contain the former make use of around 550 subjects, most of who have since been identified. Francisco's son, Xavier, separated some of these sketchbooks into individual pieces and perhaps recognised the quality of his father's work in this medium, seeking to preserve as many as he could. Once framed and presented more professionally, they would then make their work in the Prado Museum.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns the one single sketchbook that was not broken down into individual artworks, and around fifty sketches can be found within it. They then hold an additional seventeen other drawings that complete their rival collection. To have his work in this genre so well represented on both sides of the Atlantic provides great tools of research for millions of art followers in North America and his native Europe. Thankfully, both of these collections are unlikely to be sold on anytime soon because of the relative strength of these two huge art institutions.

The career of Francisco de Goya is considered to have been one of the links between tradtional art and the more modern art that we see today, but who else was significant as a draughtsman during the history of European art? Much can of course be learnt and appreciated from the drawings of Rembrandt and Titian, though Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci are perhaps the most respected of all. Their own collections of sketchwork would no doubt have come to the attention of Goya during his time as a budding artist when he was seeking to learn from the greatest names across the continent be it the Renaissance movement or several other periods that followed.