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A Portrait of the Artist

The first major English-language biography of Francisco Goya y Lucientes, considered the last of Spain's old masters and the first artist of the modern era

The art of Francisco Goya (1746–1828) is informed by the age in which he lived, a period in Spain's history that saw a succession of kings at the court of Madrid, transformative changes in the country's politics and culture, and the devastation of the Iberian Peninsula in the war against Napoleon. In this revelatory biography, Janis Tomlinson draws on a wide range of documentation—including letters, court documents, and a sketchbook used by Goya in the early years of his career—to provide a nuanced portrait of a gifted painter and printmaker whose art is synonymous with compelling images of the people, events, and social transformation that defined his life and era.

Tomlinson challenges the popular image of the artist as an isolated figure obsessed with darkness and death, showing how Goya's likeability and ambition contributed to his success at court, and offering new perspectives on his youth in Zaragoza, his rich family life, extensive travels, and lifelong friendships. She explores the full breadth of his imagery—from scenes inspired by life in Madrid to visions of worlds without reason, from royal portraits to the atrocities of war. She sheds light on the artist's personal trials, including the deaths of six children and the onset of deafness in middle age, but also challenges the conventional interpretation of Goya's late years as a period of disillusion, viewing them instead as years of artistic invention liberated, most famously in the murals painted onto the walls of his country house, popularly known as the "black" paintings.

A monumental achievement, Goya is the definitive biography of an artist whose faith in his art and his genius inspired paintings, drawings, prints, and frescoes that continue to captivate, challenge, and surprise us two centuries later.

Author Information

Janis A. Tomlinson has written and lectured extensively on the art of Goya. Her books include Goya: Order and Disorder, Goya: Images of Women, Goya in the Twilight of Enlightenment, and Francisco Goya: The Tapestry Cartoons and Early Career at the Court of Madrid.


"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

"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