Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746–1828), who came to artistic maturity during the age of Enlightenment, is considered the most important Spanish artist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Over the course of his career, Goya’s paintings, drawings, and etchings moved from bright and cheerful to deeply pessimistic. I find the last years of his career, and particularly his “black paintings," particularly interesting. These paintings are expressionist visions which communicate the pessimism and cynicism of a man inhabiting a dramatic realm of fantasy and nightmare. Apart from foreshadowing some trends in contemporary art, they reveal a fascinating personality. Goya has been described, in fact, as a sort of Hamlet-like figure, “viewing society with growing skepticism and pessimism and ultimately achieving an almost other-worldly detachment from it."
There is no doubt that this imaginative, subversive, and visionary element in his art, together with his powerful technique and his influence upon a later generation of artists, has contributed to make Goya a key figure in the history of Western art.
Goya (1746-1828) had two sides to his artistic personality . On the surface, he was a successful Spanish portrait painter, somewhat in the traditionalist school. While his treatments display exquisite technique and grace, they do not generally reveal any new or sophisticated insight into the personalities of his subjects. But, influenced strongly by the violence of Spanish politics, especially the various rebellions and civil wars of his time, he illustrated their violence in etchings and drawings showing the inhuman result of the conflicts. These illustrations are graphic and unsettling; an impressive collection of them can be found in the San Francisco Legion of Honor Museum of Art (as well as, of course, the Prado). It is in this latter body of work that his lasting contribution to art history resides.
"Watching" a de Goya painting like "Los Tres de Mayo", 1814, unfolds his dramatic, expressive imagery, enriching the scene of that moment, and of his own viewsabout humanity. De Goya's eye for, and execution of the most important details in that scene, and his use of spot lighting tells me that he was a keen, sensitive observer and thinker of human nature, and that he was courageous in his choices of subject matter, many controversial in his presentations of scenes, realistic and believable. Probably wondering about his immortality, the atmospheres he creates in his later, "dark"paintings is poignant and evocative of the anxiety he was experiencing. The scenes he depicts would envy those of the most macabre Hollywood fright scenes. His works in general, are a vibrant record of the atmosphere, the upheaval, the change, that people were going through. Perhaps the the expressive panorama of human emotion, more dramatic and intense as his painting progressed over time, also reflects his internal landscape and how he showed us the "Why?" he was experiencing in his own mind. With a de Goya, it is really important to separate the fact from the fiction as you analyze his paintings.
You may find it interesting to compare de Goya to Rembrandt. Their use of light in particular. You asked, "What do you think of de Goya?" What do you really want to know about him? His personality? His background? There are many excellent sites for these tidbits. Personally, I think one needs to study Goya, not just his paintings, but also his sketches, to understand some of the most important Art of his time. I sincerely hope you have a good adventure "meeting" Goya through more of his work.
A previous answer to this question relied heavily upon the information found in a good biographical reference that I would recommend: www.metmuseum.org/.../goya/hd_goya.htm.