Goya's 'Disasters of War'

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746 - 1828), Por qué? (Why?), from: Los Desastres de la Guerra, c. 1810-1820 (published in 1863), Collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Press release

Goya’s ‘The Disasters of War’
26 January - 21 July 2013

From 26 January Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’ Print Room plays host to the famous series of etchings ‘Los Desastres de la Guerra’ by the Spanish artist Goya. The eighty etchings present Goya’s critique of the events during the Peninsular War (1808-1814) and the period shortly afterwards. This is a rare opportunity to see the complete series of etchings from the museum’s collection. The exhibition is particularly special because the etchings come from the first edition.

The Spanish painter Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (Fuendetodos 1746 – Bordeaux 1828) worked on the eighty copper plates of ‘The Disasters of War’ between 1810 and 1820. He used techniques that remain difficult for specialists to identify and describe. Over the years the copper plates were used to make many prints, marketed in several editions. Over the next six months the Print Room presents the entire series of etchings from the first edition.

Three groups
‘The Disasters of War’ consists of three groups of prints. The first shows war scenes such as mutilated bodies and executions. The second depicts the famine that raged through Madrid in 1811-1812. The series closes with etchings that criticise the post-war reign of King Ferdinand VII. Displaying all eighty etchings together makes clear the structure of the series.

The Spanish painter
Goya's criticism of the political situation in his etchings made their publication difficult. That is probably the reason the series was not published during the artist’s lifetime. During the production of the copper plates Goya regularly made test prints (proofs) to check that the result was as he desired. But the large-scale printing of the series had to wait until thirty-five years after the artist’s death, when the copper plates were sold to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid.

Goya’s influence
Goya’s work has had an influence on many later artists. Coinciding with this exhibition, from 23 February the museum is presenting the exhibition ‘Pushwagner: Soft City’. The work of this contemporary artist, Hariton Pushwagner, displays similarities to Goya’s etchings. Pushwagner also frequently makes series of works about a particular theme. His work ‘Jobkill’, made in 2009, has distinct similarities with Goya’s series ‘The Disasters of War’. ‘Jobkill’ depicts man’s automated life as an apocalyptic battlefield. The fighter jets, human bones and tanks call to mind war scenes like those sketched by Goya.

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