"Fantasy and invention" in the work of Goya  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

During Goya's recuperation (1793–94) from his physical and mental breakdown, he undertook a series of eleven small uncommissioned cabinet paintings on tin painted at Sebastian Martinez's residence.

These were sent to the Academy in Madrid for inspection and to be sold to help Goya recover the financial losses incurred during his illness.

They mark a significant change in his art, now representing a dark, grotesque realm of fantasy and nightmare which would later become a staple in Goya's engravings.

In a now famous letter, addressed to Bernardo de Iriarte (vice-protector of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando) and dated January 4, 1794, Goya states of these works of "fantasy and invention":

“In order to occupy an imagination mortified by the contemplation of my sufferings and to recover part of the very great expense they have occasioned, I have devoted myself to painting a group of cabinet pictures in which I have succeeded in making observations for which there is normally no opportunity in commissioned works, which give no scope for fantasy and invention.” (tr. Enriqueta Harris)


Para ocupar la imaginación mortificada en la consideración de mis males, y para resarcir en parte los grandes dispendios que me han ocasionado, me dediqué a pintar un juego de cuadros de gabinete, en que he logrado hacer observaciones a que regularmente no dan lugar las obras encargadas, y en que el capricho y la invención no tienen ensanches.

One of those paintings is Yard with Lunatics.


Pierre Gassier and Juliet Wilson. The Life and Complete Work of Francisco Goya. New York: Reynal & Co., 1971. 109-111.

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