Goya: The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art

By Fred Licht | Go to book overview

8
The Disasters
of War

The Third of May is the monumental crystallization of a long, scrupulously assimilated experience. The stages of this experience are recorded, incident by incident, in a series of prints known collectively as The Disasters of War (Los desastres de la guerra). The Disasters are at once the beginning and unrivaled climax of modern graphics. The testimony to chaos, bestiality, and terror, the rejection of conventional consolations that are given a general, universal monument in The Third of May are given personal and particularized form in the Disasters.

Most of the scenes recorded in the Disasters probably had their beginnings in notations made on the spot. All of the pages have an inevitability and an impetuousness that give them the double impact of being at once truthful testimony of all that is vulnerable, vile, insane, and cruel in man and an urgent exorcism of such knowledge regarding the nature of the human beast. Unlike the pages of the Caprichos, these scenes were not etched in order to shake and waken the beholder. They were created because his art is the only defense and the only sustenance left to an artist in the face of what Goya witnessed. These plates obviously had to be created by the artist without any further thought about their ultimate purpose. Goya never intended them for publication during his lifetime. They were not presented to the public until more than fifty years after the artist had died and more than seventy years after he had first engraved them. It may be possible that Goya hoped once—as many artists and writers have hoped since—that the time might come when mankind would reach a level of sensibility at which the mere record of the insensate and purposeless cruelties of war would serve as a salutary warning to all men. If he ever entertained such vain hopes, we are not informed of them, and certainly he seems to have abandoned such ideas after the restoration

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Goya: The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Goya - The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art *
  • Contents *
  • List of Illustrations 6
  • Preface 9
  • Goya's Life in Brief 10
  • 1 - The Background 14
  • 2 - Tapestry Cartoons 22
  • 3 - Religious Paintings 46
  • 4 - The Family of Charles IV 67
  • 5 - The Maias 83
  • 6 - The Caprichos 92
  • 7 - The Second and Third of Way 104
  • 8 - The Disasters of War 128
  • 9 - The Black Paintings 159
  • 10 - Occasional Paintings 196
  • 11 - Portraits 218
  • 12 - Proletarian Paintings 257
  • Epilogue 274
  • Index 282
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