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Goya – The Disasters of War

November 16, 2012

Other Goya drawings and prints at the British Museum’s exhibition are taken from the outstanding collection of prints entitled The Disasters of War. The large series of etchings, 82 prints in all, was started in 1808 and completed in 1820 but not published until the 1860s, thirty five years after his death in 1828. The series depicts the cruelty and callousness of man toward man that armed conflict, by its very nature, can cause. The majority of these images depict those acts of cruelty between combatants and noticeably on civilians with titles such as “like wild beasts” and “barbarians!”. However, having chosen to remain a solid member of the establishment Goya kept these disturbing engravings to himself – which is why they weren’t published until long after his death. There is one image of heroism in the collection: Goya drew a woman named Augustina firing a Spanish cannon in Saragossa after all the artillerymen had been slain. She had originally been bringing them food. This is one of the images on display in the museum and one I am particularly interested in as it was produced after his visit to Saragossa, Spain, to ‘see and study the ruins of that town’ during its siege by Napoleon’s troops and he may have actually witnessed the event along with others that inspired him to develop this side of his work.

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