Fionnuala Brennan started writing ghost stories at the age of seven and has been writing ever since: journals, accounts of her travels in Europe, Africa and Asia, short stories. Eventually, when she had finished rearing her two daughters and working full time, she decided to release some of this stuff from captivity in her desk drawer and published On a Greek Island, a travel memoir, a novel called All Things Return, several prize-winning short stories as well as a two-act play Bloodroot. The Painter’s Women results from her fascination with Francisco de Goya.
The Painter’s Women: Goya in Light and Shade
“The Painter’s Women: Goya in Light and Shade” is for anyone interested in art, storytelling and the life of a most challenging artist. Francisco Goya’s life, work and loves are reflected through the eyes of six women who knew the painter intimately during his long and eventful life: his daughter, wife, mistress, daughter-in-law, a duchess, and a young model.
The story opens in 1828 at Goya’s deathbed in Bordeaux in the voice of his adored but unacknowledged fourteen-year-old daughter, Rosario, who has stayed and talked to her old father all night after his death.
Gumersinda, the wife of Goya’s only surviving son Javier, who has travelled reluctantly from Madrid to be at the dying artist’s bedside and funeral has a viperish view of her father-in-law and of his work. She is determined that neither Rosario nor her mother Leocadia, Goya’s much younger mistress, will inherit any of Goya’s wealth.
Leocadia recounts the difficulties of living with a taciturn deaf old man.
Josefa, Goya’s wife of forty years, an unassuming reserved woman, speaks to Goya from her deathbed. She has witnessed his rise to fame and his becoming the Court Painter. She has endured the deaths of six of their infants, his many unexplained absences, the rumours of his affairs.
The beautiful, feisty young Duchess of Alba first meets Goya in 1795 when she comes to his studio and commands him to paint her face. After her husband’s death, she invites Goya to Andalusia where they spend some months together.
Dolores is young girl on the make at the Duchess’s home in Andalusia. She is enticed by the Duchess to become Goya’s model for some rather audacious drawings.
Fionnuala Brennan reveals with knowledge, imagination, and convincingness often contradictory aspects of the character and work of this enigmatic artist who lived through a most turbulent period in European history.
“From the six female narrative voices that comprise “The Painter’s Women”, there emerges an intriguing portrait of the artist Francisco de Goya. A complex character who insisted that his deafness made him see more clearly, Goya dominates the novel. Ambitious and difficult, unfaithful and generous, uncompromising and volatile: we see the man and the influences, both personal and political, that underpinned such masterpieces as Los Desastres de la Guerra and Los Caprichos.” —Catherine Dunne
“The Painter’s Women is a Cubist view of Goya. Fionnuala Brennan creates shards of the great painter as viewed by the women who competed with one another for a slice of his affections. Rich in historical detail and powerfully atmospheric, The Painter’s Women is as dark, passionate and haunting as a Goya masterpiece.” —Mary Morrissy
“An original and impressive novel that carries its learning lightly and makes for compelling and enjoyable reading.” —Marie Heaney
Publisher: Betimes Books
Rights Held: World