The Disasters of the War

The Disasters of the War

The Disasters of the War

The Disasters of the War

Excerpt

It is only natural that to Goya should fall the distinction of representing Spanish thought during the drama of the French invasion which brought fire and destruction to the Peninsula between 1808 and 1814. He was sixty-two years old when the drama began. For nearly a third of a century he had been official painter to the Spanish Court. He had already painted the portraits--startling, grotesque, satirical, adorable and vengeful--of that family of degenerates, of prostitutes and monsters, which ruled over Spain and had gone in full force to Bayonne to grovel at the feet of Napoleon and to wash before the conqueror's eyes the dirty linen of the family and of the degraded political intrigues which were ravaging that unhappy country. At that time he was incontestably by far the most distinguished representative of a genius which many believed to have been dead, or at all events on the point of extinction, for more than a century--a fierce genius of formal oppositions and spiritual contrasts, absorbed in a supernaturalism which always remained attached to the most sombre aspects of earthly life, worshipping in life all that is most sensual, coarse and brutal, but also most unexpected, voluptuous, verdant and free, attracted by all that, in death, is most repugnant for the eyes and nostrils, but also by that which is best adapted for bringing into agreement the funeral and magnificent harmonies of secular greatness and definite nothingness. All this Goya had in himself to the highest degree, and he used it fortuitously, with an unheard-of prodigality, full of contradictions, obscurities and flashes of light, in paintings, portraits, drawings, engravings, or even in decoration, exploiting lavishly the spiritual paroxysms which he had experienced during a tempestuous life in which love, bull-fights, brawls, festivals, the sudden anger of the righteous and the jests of the street-urchin filled every hours, without leaving the least leisure for contemplation. Let us try and imagine this prodigious man, in that Spain of his which had known no war for a century, which had fallen sound asleep, clothed in its mantle that had been patched twenty times, by the side of its stony pathways, ruined by its grandees, oppressed by its monks, despoiled of its forests and its waters by the acres of waste- . . .

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