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Goya: A Portrait of the Artist

Our familiarity with the Spanish artist Francisco Goya, through exhibitions, operas, plays, cinema, literature, and as the inspiration for artists from Édouard Manet to Leon Golub, might eclipse our understanding of him as a contemporary of Thomas Jefferson. In Goya: A Portrait of the Artist, Janis Tomlinson restores the artist to his place within history. Interweaving the knowledge of her decades-long study of Goya with political and social history, recent discoveries, the lives of his contemporaries, correspondence, and chronicles and newspapers of his day, the author presents him within the complex fabric of his era.

The figure who emerges overturns popular images of the artist as isolated and embittered by deafness, satirist of the court he served, or lover of the duchess of Alba. Goya’s story transcends what can be captured in exhibitions, and encompasses religious commissions, praised highly by his contemporaries but today lost, as well as portraits, small paintings, and drawings of which no trace remains. His faith in his own creativity, and his easy engagement with friends and patrons paved the road to his success at the royal court of Madrid. Ever resilient, he suffered the deaths of six of seven children, the onset of deafness at the age of forty-six, and the invasion of Napoleonic forces that decimated his homeland. As friends and acquaintances died or were forced into exile, as regimes changed, Goya endured, ceaselessly giving form to subjects never before imagined, in paintings, prints, and drawings and in formats ranging from monumental frescos to miniatures on ivory.



Praise for Goya: A Portrait of the Artist

“The best book on Goya, a perennially fascinating yet startlingly modern old master.”

—William E. Wallace, author of Michelangelo, God’s Architect

“In this authoritative and lucid biography, Janis Tomlinson brings her own compassionate insight into the personal paradoxes of this towering figure within a brilliant cast of supporting characters. Coming from her lifelong engagement with Goya and depth of knowledge of his tumultuous epoch, Tomlinson’s book will stand as the definitive biography for our time.”

—Susan Grace Galassi, Curator Emerita, The Frick Collection

“Janis Tomlinson has given us an impressively comprehensive and beautifully written study of Goya’s life and works. It ranks as one of the best and most detailed of the many Goya books ever written.”

—Anthony J. Cascardi, author of Ideologies of History in the Spanish Golden Age

“A masterful achievement. Tomlinson’s biography of Goya unfolds lovingly, with flair and detail, gathering friends, mentors, and family into the story while revealing new information about the artist’s works and the context in which he created them.”

—David T. Gies, editor of Dieciocho and The Cambridge History of Spanish Literature

“An outstanding biography. Tomlinson has a profound knowledge of Goya and an excellent grasp of the relevant literature, and this informs her nuanced reading of the artist’s life.”

—Mark McDonald, author of Renaissance to Goya: Prints and Drawings from Spain