Today, we highlight the artist Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (also known as de Goya), who is considered the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns, and guitarist José Feliciano, who has been referred to as the “Picasso of his Realm.” Both men have created masterpieces in their respective fields.
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes
Goya was born on March 30th, 1746 in Fuendetodos, Aragón, Spain to José Benito de Goya y Franque and Gracia de Lucientes y Salvador. He and his family moved to Zaragoza, Spain in the early 1750s where he formed a close relationship with Martin Zapater. Their correspondence during the 1770s to the 1790s has become a valuable source to historians for understanding Goya’s early career at the court of Madrid. In the early 1760s, Goya studied with José Luzán and, after moving to Madrid, with Anton Raphael Mengs, who was popular with Spanish royalty. Goya and Mengs clashed, after which Goya relocated to Rome. In 1771, while still in Rome, Goya won second prize in a painting competition and he returned to Zaragoza later that year, where he painted part of the cupolas of the Basilica of the Pillar, a cycle of frescoes in the monastic church of the Charterhouse of Aula Dei, and the frescoes of the Sobradiel Palace. In 1773, he married Josefa Bayeu. His marriage and his brother-in-law’s membership in the Royal Academy of Fine Art helped Goya procure work as a painter of designs to be woven by the Royal Tapestry Factory. Over the next five years, many of his designs would decorate royal residences near Madrid, which would later give him access to the royal court. During the 1780s, Goya painted many members of the royal court, but it was not until 1789 that he became court painter of Charles IV of Spain. Ten years later, in 1799, Goya was appointed First Court Painter. During this time he painted portraits of the royal family and many nobles. These paintings are notable because they lack flattery and, in some, there is a lack of diplomacy – as is the case of Charles IV of Spain and His Family.
Sometime between 1792 and 1793, Goya was deafened by a serious illness, the exact nature of which is unknown (his symptoms may indicate prolonged viral encephalitis or a series of transient ischemic attacks or miniature strokes) and which also caused some form of mental illness (some postmortem diagnostic tools point to Ménière’s Disease, while others point toward paranoid dementia due to unknown brain trauma). During his recuperation, Goya experimented with his art, which he did in parallel to his more official commissions. In 1808, France’s invasion of Spain would lead to the Peninsular War of 1808-1814. It was during this war, that Goya’s wife, Josefa, died and his maid, Leocadia Weiss, would begin to take care of him shortly thereafter. There is a famous portrait by Goya of a woman and it is unknown if it is his wife, Josefa, or his maid, Leocadia. It is said that Leocadia looked like Josefa in her youth.
In 1819, Goya bought a country house by the Manzanares River outside of Madrid with the idea of isolating himself. This country house is known as the Quinta del Sordo (roughly translated it means “House of the Deaf Man” and was titled after its previous owner and not after Goya himself). It was in this country home where he created the Black Paintings. These paintings reflected his fear of insanity and his outlook on humanity. Some of them, including Saturn Devouring His Son and Yard with Lunatics (which is often thought to be Goya’s condemnation of how people with mental illness were treated at that time), were painted directly onto the walls of his dining and sitting rooms (and which, years later, were ruined, 50 years after his death, when being transferred from the walls to canvas supports). Goya traveled to Bordeaux and Paris in May of 1824 after having lost faith in the Spanish Monarchy. After returning briefly to Spain in 1826, he died of a stroke in 1828 in Bordeaux, France at the age of 82. His two most famous paintings are the Majas – The Nude Maja and The Clothed Maja. They are of the same woman in the same pose, naked and clothed, respectively. The Nude Maja was the first life-size female nude in Western art without any pretense to allegorical or mythological meaning.
José was born blind on September 10, 1945 in Lares, Puerto Rico and is one of eleven brothers. By the age of three, his love of music had been born as he accompanied his uncle on a tin cracker can. José’s family moved to New York City when he was five and, by age six, young José was learning to play the concertina while using a handful of records as his teacher. His first public performance was at the age of eight when he entertained his friends at PS 57. At the age of nine, José performed at The Puerto Rican Theater in the Bronx. Soon after, he ventured beyond the accordion and taught himself how to play the guitar with nothing but records as his teachers. Jose found his inspiration to sing in the Rock n Roll of the 1950s. At the age of 17, he began to play in coffee houses in Greenwich Village. He then began playing coffeehouses, clubs, and cafés from Boston to Cleveland to Detroit to Chicago and Colorado. An A&R executive from RCA, Jack Sommer went to the Village to audition a trio and instead signed José to RCA. José’s first major break occurred in Latin America, where he recorded several albums and became a “teen idol” throughout South and Central America, México, and the Caribbean.
By the time José was 23, he had earned five Grammy nominations and won two Grammy awards for his album Feliciano! He had recorded songs in four languages and performed over much of the world, but José was not satisfied. He expanded his career by acting and, after several dramatic TV appearances, he returned to music. There are three songs that have been milestones for José: 1.) Light My Fire, which topped the charts in 1968 and is now a standard, according to the publisher, due to José’s interpretation, 2.) Che Sara was the entry to the 1971 San Remo Music festival that became a mega-success for Jose throughout the world, and 3.) Feliz Navidad, the Christmas song that has become a tradition throughout the world at holiday time every year.
Jose has had a very distinguished career and he recognizes his great fortune in having met and worked with some of the world’s most notable artists, writers, scientists, sports figures, heads-of-state, and royal figures. Although he has paid attention to his Spanish roots and he has spent his life on American soil, his music has touched people all over the world. Jose has a great affection for Europe and especially Vienna and Jose’s recording of The Sound of Vienna has become iconic. José has recorded over 70 albums in his long and impressive career. He is still humble and has a reputation as a great humanitarian.