Francisco Goya’s (1746-1828) Disasters of War prints depict the guerrilla warfare, famine and political disillusionment which followed Napoleon Bonaparte’s (1769-1821) invasion of Spain in 1808. They contain some of the most brutally graphic images of war ever produced.
Goya worked on the plates for these etchings between 1810 and 1820 but, owing to the repressive regime of King Ferdinand VII (1784-1833), they were not published until thirty-five years after Goya’s death. The Chester Beatty Library holds the entire collection of 80 prints (from the second edition of 1892), of which half was highlighted in this exhibition.
A master draftsman and printmaker, Goya produced compelling compositions using sparse line combined with strong light and dark shadow. His poignant observations of human suffering help mitigate the scenes of extreme violence and these powerful works still affect and shock audiences today. Indeed, as a record of the atrocities of war, the etchings are often regarded as the predecessors of modern photo-journalism.