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up to and including 21 July 2013

Goya's 'Disasters of War'

The Print Room displays rotating selections from the permanent collection of prints and drawings. From January 2013 it presented a special exhibition with a series of etchings by the Spanish painter Goya.

From 26 January until 21 July 2013 the Print Room hosted the exhibition ‘Los Desastres de la Guerra’ (Disasters of War), a rare opportunity in the Netherlands to see the entire series of eighty prints by the Spanish artist Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746 - 1828). Displaying all the prints together gave a better sense of how the series evolves. 

The etchings were printed from eighty copper plates made by Goya between 1810 and 1820. Several editions were printed from the plates; the eighty etchings in the museum’s collection come from the first edition (1863). The captions on several etchings contain spelling errors that were corrected in later editions. 

Because numerous impressions were made from the plates, over the years the plates became damaged. As a result the later prints are of a poorer quality. On the relatively early examples in the museum’s collection it is possible to identify the various printmaking techniques that Goya employed.

The Spanish painter

In ‘Los Desastres de la Guerra’ Goya provided a commentary on the Peninsular War (1808-1814) and the events shortly afterwards. The etchings show how the army mistreated the Spanish people. His critical stance made it dangerous to sell the etchings in this period. During the production of the copper plates Goya made impressions only to check that the results were as he desired. The large-scale printing of the etchings took place long after Goya’s death, when the copper plates were sold to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid. The first edition was published by the Academy in 1863, thirty-five years after the artist’s death. Various other editions followed.

Prints and drawings

The museum has a large collection of prints and drawings. The collection of approximately 20,000 drawings and 60,000 prints has been assembled thanks to gifts from various private collectors. One of these was Adriaan Jacob Domela Nieuwenhuis, who donated some 3000 works in 1923, including the series ‘Disasters of War’ by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes.

Goya as an inspiration for others

Many artists have admitted to being inspired by the work of Francisco Goya. These include the Norwegian artist Pushwagner. Like Goya, he makes series of works about a particular theme. Although many of Pushwagner’s works have a comic-book quality, ‘Jobkill’ (2009) has clear similarities with ‘Disasters of War’. His work was on display in the museum from 23 February until 26 May 2013 in the exhibition ‘Pushwagner: Soft City’. In ‘Jobkill’ Pushwagner depicts man’s automated life as an apocalyptic battlefield, with fighter jets, human bones and other aspects that call to mind scenes of war.