About the Artwork
The Disasters of War is one of the three great war print portfolios of Western art, preceded by that of Jacques Callot (ca. 1592–1635) and followed by that of Otto Dix (1892–1969). It is a classic work of Romanticism, with its exploration of human emotion, and a monument of Francisco de Goya’s achievement in the print medium. Most of the plates were inspired by incidents Goya witnessed during the Peninsular War of 1808–14 (following the Napoleonic invasion) and the terrible famine in Madrid in 1811–12. Goya began the series in 1810 and completed it by 1820, but no contemporary edition was ever made, perhaps because of the horrific nature of the subject matter, or because the satirical and anticlerical images could not have stood up in the climate of repression. The first edition was published posthumously in 1863. The plates fall into several distinct groups: plates 1–47 deal with the horrors of the war; plates 48–64 record the famine in Madrid, which is said to have claimed over 20,000 victims in one year; and plates 65–80, the last to be executed, are the Emphatic Caprichios, with political, religious, and ideological allusions to the war.
About the Artist
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes was the leading Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His considerable sphere of influence reflects his dual reputation as both an Old Master and the first modern artist. A painter and draughtsman as well as printmaker, Goya trained with painter José Luzán Martínez (1710–1785) in Saragossa and later married the sister of the court painter Francisco Bayeu (1734-1795), who helped him gain his first commissions. Goya was elected to the Academia de S. Fernando in 1780 and was named Painter to the King six years later. Over his life he served three generations of Spanish monarchs: Charles III, Charles IV and Maria Luisa of Parma, and Ferdinand VII. His output ranges from aristocratic portraits to satirical etchings to religious fresco cycles; he also made large-scale genre paintings (culminating in the so-called Black paintings) and, toward the end of his life, miniature paintings on ivory. For his enormous production, range, and technical and aesthetic experimentation, he is widely recognized as one of the great masters of world art.