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Prints and Authors in the Time of Manet

Francisco de Goya
Spanish, 1746–1828

Disasters of War (Desastres de la guerra)

Etchings with aquatint, 1810–20; published 1863
Frederick B. and Kate L. Shoemaker Fund, 1941.59–138

A painter of major importance, Francesco Goya is also one of the greatest printmakers in the history of art. He used prints most effectively to express his penetrating insights into human nature. He was a master of etching and aquatint, creating silvery atmospheric effects, dramatic highlights, and subtle transitions from light to dark.
Goya’s 82-print series Disasters of War presents, in Goya’s words, the “fatal consequences of the bloody war in Spain with [Napoleon] Bonaparte.” Instead of depicting military battles, Goya represents the violent and horrifying experiences of ordinary Spanish citizens during the six-year conflict with the occupying French forces (1807–14) and the internal struggles that occurred afterward.
After the savage resistance of the civilian population eventually expelled the French from Spain, the Spanish king Ferdinand was reinstalled, the constitution and its reforms were set aside, and the all encompassing power of the Catholic Church restored. Goya’s unforgiving images criticize both the brutality of the French and the retaliations of the Spanish.