It shows a man marked by the ravages of time. It really shouldn't have ended up like this. Goya, with his prodigious talent, was one of the most celebrated artists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. However, in this painting, the happy days seem far behind him. A painfully truthful portrait, it shows him in a vulnerable state. Like the subjects of some of his earlier portraits, there is no setting. The artist is surrounded by a dark colour and is wearing a dark colour too.
We behold an ageing, man with a haunted look. Although we see just the face and shoulders, we get the impression of someone who is incline to be overweight. His hairline is receding. Yet he is alive and ready to go on living. He is still painting and will continue to do so. He has a tired look about him, like one who is weary of the problems of life. After what he has been through and what he is going through, this is hardly surprising. This painting is found in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
In his early days, Goya had a happy, lighthearted image that was in startling contrast to that his later days. There were two main problems in his later years. One was an undiagnosed illness that left him deaf. Another was the Napoleonic invasion of Spain, in which he witnessed much violence and tragedy. The painter was never the same after that. These tragic and terrible events, along with his illness, left a terrible impression on the painter. The subject of Self Portrait 1815 is a haunted, sad individual who has seen and experienced things that he never thought he would. He also fears horrors and tragedy which he is yet to see.
There is no escape. The artist who created cartoons and painted portraits of the aristocracy of his time and place will never again exist. In his place is a haunted, frightened man who has been changed forever. The struggle between light and darkness in the soul of this painter created a body of work that is surprisingly dark and gloomy, but giving a glimpse into the world of despair and loss and grief. As to whether the dark or the light won in the end, who knows?