Self Portrait in the Studio, 1790-1795
In this remarkable self portrait that he painted in the early 1790s, Goya is at work on a large upright canvas, presumably a portrait, his eyes turned away from it towards his subject, which contemporary viewers might well have recognized as themselves. Bright sunshine floods from a large window behind the painter, and he wears a curious hat with candle holders on the brim.
It was undoubtedly as a portrait painter that Goya won fame and advancement and the special praise of Carderera, who observed his 'astonishing facility for portrait painting. He customarily painted portraits in a single session and these were the most life-like.' To this Goya's son added a detail that explains the unusual hat, with metal candlesticks around the crown, that he wears in the self portrait in his studio: 'He painted only in one session, sometimes of 10 hours, but never in the late afternoon. The last touches for the better effect of a picture he gave at night, by artificial light.' Goya's biographer, Matheron, also commented on this practice: 'He was so jealous of the effect that - like our Girodet who painted at night, his head crowned with candles - he gave the last touches to his canvases by candlelight.'
...He also dealt with personal tragedy: in 1792, he became deaf and he died in exile in France in 1824 after having seen six of his seven children die in childhood. He celebrated Spain’s brief Enlightenment, an unusually peaceful period, with a self-portrait in which blinding light enters his studio, obscuring his features.
...Goya's Self Portrait in the Studio similarly shows the painter in darkness, but this time it is because he is backlit by the sun coming through a window, "silhouetted against a whiteness so shattering that every contour is emphasized". According to Cumming, he was completely deaf, the tragic result of an illness, when he painted it: "and the world is shut out of this picture, the window a whiteout, the artist all alone in the little kingdom of his studio."
The Spanish painter Goya was no stranger to self portraiture. In fact, when he wasn’t painting bull fights, crucified Christs, boys playing soldiers, ladies on swings, the Holy Family, and portraits of important people such as the Count of Floridablanca and the family of Infante Don Luis, he was busy looking at himself. Most great artists have a litany of self portraits which, before the era of selfies and other forms of instant digital photography, were a way of capturing the aging process, the maturation of the artist, and a glorious outfit. Here we see a self portrait from 1795, which was begun in 1790 and took five years to complete; the artist is painting in a Romantic style, with a hazy light coming through the widows, and a generous paint palette. His fashionable black top hat pairs well with his matador-esque black coat with red lining. Previous Goya self portraits took about five years to make as well; there’s one from 1770-1775 and another from 1783, both of which portray the artist as stately, proud and lost in thought. In comparison, his 1795 portrait brings forth a confidence that, in his younger years, the artist had not yet achieved.