The Disasters of War is a series of 82 prints created between 1810 and 1820 by the Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya. Although deeply affected by the war, he kept private his thoughts on the art he produced in response to the conflict and he was in poor health and almost deaf when, at 62, he began work on the prints. They were not published until 1863,35 years after his death and it is likely that only then was it considered politically safe to distribute a sequence of artworks criticising both the French and restored Bourbons. In total over a thousand sets have been printed, though later ones are of lower quality, the name by which the series is known today is not Goyas own. His handwritten title on an album of proofs given to a friend reads, Fatal consequences of Spains bloody war with Bonaparte, aside from the titles or captions given to each print, these are Goyas only known words on the series. With these works, he breaks from a number of painterly traditions and he rejects the bombastic heroics of most previous Spanish war art to show the effect of conflict on individuals. In addition he abandons colour in favour of a more direct truth he found in shadow, the series was produced using a variety of intaglio printmaking techniques, mainly etching for the line work and aquatint for the tonal areas, but also engraving and drypoint. As with many other Goya prints, they are referred to as aquatints. The series is considered in three groups which broadly mirror the order of their creation. The first 47 focus on incidents from the war and show the consequences of the conflict on individual soldiers, the middle series record the effects of the famine that hit Madrid in 1811–12, before the city was liberated from the French. Napoleon I of France declared himself First Consul of the French Republic on 18 February 1799, because Spain controlled access to the Mediterranean, it was politically and strategically important to the French. The reigning Spanish sovereign, Charles IV, was regarded as ineffectual. Seduced by the French offer, Godoy accepted, failing to detect the true motivations of either Napoleon or Ferdinand, under the guise of reinforcing the Spanish armies,23,000 French troops entered Spain unopposed in November 1807. Even when their intentions became clear the following February, the forces faced little resistance besides isolated actions in disconnected areas. They decided that Napoleons brother, Joseph Bonaparte, should be king, under a pretext of mediation, Napoleon summoned Charles and Ferdinand to Bayonne, France, where they were coerced into relinquishing their rights to the throne in favour of Joseph. Like other Spanish liberals, Goya was left in a position after the French invasion. He had supported the aims of the French Revolution, and hoped its ideals would help liberate Spain from feudalism to become a secular. The latter divide became more pronounced—and the differences far more entrenched—following the eventual withdrawal of the French, several of Goyas friends, including the poets Juan Meléndez Valdés and Leandro Fernández de Moratín, were overt afrancesados, the supporters of Joseph Bonaparte
Image: Prado Los Desastres de la Guerra No. 03 Lo mismo
Plate 4: Las mujeres dan valor (The women are courageous). A struggle between civilians and soldiers
Plate 41: Escapan entre las llamas (They escape among the flames). Men and women some carrying each other run into the night, amidst chaos and terror.
Plate 39: Grande hazaña! Con muertos! (A heroic feat! With dead men!).