Personality and artistic nature of Francisco of Goya overshadowed all the painters of his generation, though, without doubt, Francisco Bayeu y Subías (Zaragoza, 9.3.1734-Madrid, 48.1795), his brother-in-law, was the most affected. The disputes between the two, caused by his different pictorial conception, solved in favour of Goya in the posterity, have sufficiently harmed the valuation of Bayeu's work, though, in the time when they took place, the afore-mentioned disputes were solved in favour of Francisco Bayeu. This can serve as an example of how Bayeu’s work was valued then and how it is valued nowadays. The transition of his fame and recognition in life into a cold and academic valuation affected his painting and all the members of his generation, comparing with the evolution of Goya. But beyond the critical evolution of his work, Bayeu's frescoes, without doubt, had enormous success in his time. Bayeu is one of the most important fresco painters of his generation. Without fear a of being wrong, it is possible to consider his life a life of triumph and of work crowned by a series of successes achievable by few painters of that time.
As usual, we know very little about the childhood and youth of Francisco Bayeu. A son of a lances teacher, Ramon Bayeu Fanlo and Maria Subías Domínguez, he took his first classes of Latin and Grammar in Zaragoza, possibly in the escolapios and in the Jesuits. When Bayeu was fourteen years old he guided his steps towards the world of drawing and painting. He was a student of one of the most qualified teachers of Zaragoza, Jose Luzón Martínez. This period of training started in 1753 and finished with the arrival to the Aragonese capital of the painter Antonio Gonzalez Velázquez, who hired the young Bayeu as his assistant to paint the cupola of the Santa Capilla del Pilar. The relation between Gonzalez Velázquez and Francisco Bayeu was very good considering that, with the return of Velázquez to Madrid and after the death of the parents of Bayeu, he supported Bayeu in entering as a student the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando (Real Academia de Bellas Artes of San Fernando).
From 1753 Francisco Bayeu started a professional pictorial activity in Zaragoza, which ended up in his arrival to Madrid with all his family in April, 1758. From this time he was being granted a scholarship by the Academia of Fine Arts to pay the painting classes given by Antonio Gonzalez Velázquez. However, at the end of the same year, 1758, the harmony between the two ended. The scholarship was suspended and the whole family Bayeu decided to return to Zaragoza, where gradually, they found customers, who they always, even subsequently, tried to cherish and to please.
On his return from Zaragoza in 1759 Francisco Bayeu married Sebastiana Merclein and Salillas, daughter of the zaragozan painter, Juan Andrés Merclein. One of the reasons for his wedding was his aiming the Aragonese market. The orders followed and among them, the most significant was the one of the Monasterio Jerónimo de Santa Engracia of Zaragoza.
After his frustrated stay in the Court, his life seemed to be directed towards the Aragonese market. However, the luck of Francisco Bayeu changed at the beginning of 1763. Anton Rafael Mengs remembered him and helped him with the pictorial decorations of the new Royal Palace. After arranging the pertinent technical matters and completing his Aragonese orders, Francisco Bayeu and his family returned to the Court where they settled in May of 1763.
From this year, Francisco Bayeu's career will be centred on the Court. He executes thoroughly the orders of the royal family. However, the manner of performance, established in Zaragoza, will not be changed, as it is typical for that time. Under the patronage of Mengs, he will end up a career based on the tippet decorations, ascending, together with Mariano Salvador Mealla, in the hierarchy of the court painters and in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. He also inscribed in his familiar group a young rising painter Goya and was waiting for the professional and social recognition of his landlords: Mengs, Carlos III and Carlos IV.
As an excellent fresco painter, Francisco Bayeu will be, on occasions together with Maella, in charge of the decoration of the principal edifices of that time. Thus, until his departure, he helped Mengs with various decorations of the Royal Palace that occupied him for the rest of his life. He also accomplished the decoration of San Pascual Bailón in Aranjuez (1770), of the Colegiata de La Granja together with Mealla (1770), of the Palace El Pardo (1773-1774), of the Claustro of the Catedral of Toledo together with Mariano Maella during the period 1776-1790, and of the Palace of Aranjuez (1778-1779). Among the royal orders we must not forget the sketches for tapestries and the portable oratories that Bayeu will perform for different members of the royal house. Among the orders of the Monarchy, the most important work of Francisco Bayeu was the decorative cycle for the Basilica of El Pilar of Zaragoza. It was a task that he completed in two phases: 1775-1776 and 1780-1781. In this decoration we observe how Bayeu and his family, his brother-in-law, Goya, also took part in the decorations, tried to keep the relations with his Aragonese clients who had been the first to trust them. The famous confrontation between Goya and Francisco Bayeu took place in these decorations, solved finally, in favour of Bayeu. We should not forget that he was then one of the most important painters of the Monarchy.
At the same time that Francisco Bayeu performed this frantic pictorial activity he received posts, nominations and economic remunerations. Thus, on 13 January, 1765, at the suggestion of Mengs, Bayeu was renowned Lieutenant-Director of Painting by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. On 14 May of the same year Carlos III granted him a salary of 24.000 reals a year. On 10 April, 1767 he was renowned Pintor de Cámara, while on 3 May, 1769 his salary increased up to 30.000 reals a year. Although he had these appointments fast, he had to wait until the 7 June, 1788 to get the Direction of Painting of the Academy of Fine Arts and until June, 1795 to be designated Director of the above mentioned Academy. Francisco Bayeu had less fortune in his pretension to be renowned First Pintor de Cámara. He will never obtain this objective, though Carlos IV raised his salary up to 50.000 reals a year on 2 August, 1790. This was the same salary that Maella and Goya received when they were granted with the title of The First Pintor de Cámara.
With this salary and the before said honours Francisco Bayeu continued erecting scaffoldings for his work as a frescoes’ painter almost until he deathbed, decorating the bedroom of the king in the Royal Palace in 1794. His tireless life was only interrupted by his illness in March of 1795. He will not recover from the disease. He came in an agonizing condition that ended up with his death in the dawn of 5 August, 1795. He was buried in the parish of San Juan of Madrid.