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    Francisco Goya (1746-1828) The deathbeds (Las camas de la muerte)

    In these days of instantaneous visual news we are all too familiar with war and destruction.  Yet even today it is impossible to better the unflinching look taken in The Disasters of War series by the great Spanish artist Francisco Goya now on view at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

    Goya’s realistic depictions of the brutaliity of war and its consequences have influenced artists from Manet to Dali and Picasso. The series of etchings has been described as the greatest anti-war manifesto in the history of art.
    Created using sparse line combined with strong light and dark shadow it depicts the warfare, famine and political disillusionment which followed Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Spain in 1808.  Goya worked on the plates from 1810-1820.  The three sections of the disasters show first the brutality of warfare, followed by the famine in Madrid during the winter of 1811-12 in which over 20,000 died and thirdly the ruling elite in Spain is bitterly satirised.
    The prints, complete with ironic titles like What Courage, The Deathbeds and Against the Common Good were not published until 35 years after the artists death. Only in 1863 was it considered politically safe to do so. This was due in part of the repressive regime of King Ferdinand VII (1784-1833) which followed the Napoleonic War.
    The Chester Beatty Library holds the entire series of 80 prints from the second edition of 1892.  Forty of them are on display in a special exhibition which runs until January 21.  Curator of the western collections Dr. Jill Unkell said the etchings are often regarded as the predecessors of modern photo journalism. “Though harrowing, Goya’s poignant observations of human suffering help mitigate the scenes of extreme violence”.

    Francisco Goya (1746-1828) What courage! (Que Valor!)

    Francisco Goya (1746-1828) With or Without Reason (Con razon ó sin ella)

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