The eighty-two engravings making up the cycle The Horrors of War by the great Spanish artist Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828) are shown grouped into seven sections - The front, The Victims, The Executions, The Mass migrations and looting, The Hunger, The Woman, The Post-War Period, and do not follow the numbering of the metal plates. The aim is to outline the main themes and the ideas interwoven with them that Goya develops in the entire series.
The printed works of the cycle are complemented with photographs by contemporary photo-reporters who from 1839 until now take the same anti-war approach as Goya.
Los Desastres de la Guerra illustrates man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man, precipitated by Spain’s War of Independence against Napoleon’s forces (1808-1814), and suggests the complete collapse of the Age of Enlightenment. The original set of 85 etchings was most likely completed by Goya between 1810 and 1820, and entitled Fatales consequencias de la sangrienta guerra en España con Buonaparte. Y otros caprichos enfáticos. (Fatal consequences of Spain’s bloody war with Buonaparte. And other emphatic caprices).
Goya is trying to go beyond the historical facts. The idea occured to him in Zaragoza, where he went at the invitation of General Palafox to report about the heroic defense of the city besieged by French troops, but instead he finds ruins.
The set of proofs was bound and given to his friend Juan Agustín Ceán Bermúdez to review, and is currently located in the British Museum. The prints were not published in Goya’s lifetime. In 1863, the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando published the first edition of 80 aquatints as Los Desastres de la Guerra, bound as a book.
Over sixty years old and deaf when the war began, it is unlikely Goya witnessed firsthand all of the atrocities he depicts in the series, however his portrayal of the events under French occupation serve as profound statements on this war and on war in general. The first half of the plates renders the horrors of war and its effects; the subsequent plates illustrate famine as a consequence of war; the last group of plates depicts allegorical images referring to the trauma of the postwar period.
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