Francisco Goya and his Illness

Francisco de Goya was a brilliant painter, illustrator, a lithographer who almost ruled the world of art and unique creativity for 60 long years. His works came from a wide range of subjects by using a multitude of techniques. His eclectic collection of paintings brings chills to the spectators even today.

Goya’s art history and painting style can be divided into two parts or periods according to his perspective and health. The first period was value-driven in which Goya worked on a number of tapestries and beautiful, awe-inspiring, and serene portraits.

Francisco Goya and his Illness

Compared to the first period, the second period of Goya’s art history is much more dark, expressive, and thought-provoking. It was in this period we came across his paintings of war scenes, bullfights, the black paintings, among others.

Historians, researchers, and critics share a common view when it comes to the characterization of the second period in Goya’s art history. It is said that the paintings in this period are a direct response to the painter’s ill health (syphilis or an autoimmune disease, so they say). The disease also led to Goya turning deaf.

Did Goya’s IIlness impact his Paintings?

Did Goya’s IIlness impact his Paintings

Yes, to a great extent. The turning point in Francisco de Goya’s life came when he turned 46. At this time, he suffered from a severe illness, which stayed with the painter for a few months and left him at a loss of vision and hearing. Not only this, Goya was suffering from tinnitus, dizziness, and paralysis during and after this dreading period.

So, a person who goes through all these health issues is bound to find himself lost and far away from the coast. Even after being ill to this extent, Goya’s proficiency at painting did not suffer. Moreover, his popularity rose after the illness and his paintings became more gloomy and satirical during the time he was recovering.

There is evidence that proves Goya’s recovery from his conditions was plausible, but it was “sadly slow.” The worst part about Goya’s illness is that these conditions came abruptly, and he was suddenly struck with deafness and acute sickness.

The evolution of painting style, characterization, and usage of colors by Goya is a direct consequence of his loss of vision. As the extent of blindness increased, the faded dark backgrounds became more prominent. It also led to a blurriness in the painting led to the creation of a silhouette of the characters portrayed in the painting.

Did Goya’s IIlness impact his Paintings 1

Goya was a complex personality. On one hand, his painting style was undergoing heavy changes and on the other, his art and skill were progressing at their right speed. Even after being bedridden for some time and facing severe illnesses, Goya could finish some of his portraits in a single sitting.

During this period, Goya created a series of artworks, Caprichos. After this, Goya created one of his most influential and timeless paintings. The Executions of May 3 showing the brutality of the Napoleonic conquest has become one of the most dramatic paintings ever to come into the limelight.

Goya’s Art went Scary After his Illness

Goya’s Art went Scary After his Illness

If art is about perception, what we see, hear, feel, and experience, then Goya’s illness was the defining factor of the scariness and brutality in his art. The harsh characterization and out-of-context scenery was the result of his deafness and hallucinations.

After more than a century of his death, a diagnosis revealed that Goya had possible hallucinations which led to the making of spine-chilling portraits.

Goya’s Art went Scary After his Illness 1

In 1799, Goya published 80 etchings of witches and ghosts. There are two versions of this predilection towards these paintings. The first one is promoted by Goya’s contemporaries, saying that these paintings might have been a direct result of Goya’s depression.

Some also said that he was smart enough to know the contemporary superstitions and these paintings directly resulted from his satirical views on these misconceptions. But the diagnosis of his diseases found that Goya might have been suffering from Susac’s Syndrome which attacked the immune system. When the inner linings of small blood vessels are attacked, which results in inflammation in the brain leading to headaches and hallucinations.

Disagreement Over the Right Diagnosis

Disagreement Over the Right Diagnosis

A lot of diseases troubled Goya’s life and the worst part is that even today there is no consensus among the practitioners or researchers regarding the type of disease or condition ailing Goya.

Some say it was Encephalitis, others say that it was Syphilis, Susac’s syndrome, depression, bipolar, autoimmune disease, among some other causative conditions. The side-effects or impact of any of these conditions was prominent as Goya was not able to fully recover from his illness till he succumbed to various unknown conditions.

Not only physical ailments, but Goya’s mental state could also have triggered his new and eerie approach to the dark arts. His wife’s several miscarriages or France taking over Spain’s administration can also be cited as one of the reasons for amplifying his illness.


Francisco de Goya was no less than a legend when it comes to painting. His artwork and approach towards etching portraits and his understanding of the characters was immaculate. Throughout history and even today, Goya is regarded as a pioneer of oil paintings and works have always set new standards for others to follow or imitate like the ones at