New in 2015: Goya’s The Disasters of War

By | December 26, 2015

For the rest of the year, we’re highlighting amazing works of art that became part of the SLAM collection in 2015. We’ll be posting a new acquisition daily through the end of the year. You can read each installment here

Elizabeth Wyckoff

Elizabeth Wyckoff

This summer, the Art Museum will organize an exhibition highlighting an important 2015 acquisition, The Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War) series by Francisco Goya (1746–1828). Although it was not formally published until more than two decades after the artist’s death, the series stands as one of the major monuments in the history of printmaking for the technical and story-telling genius with which Goya approached the project, as well as for the trenchant treatment of its challenging subject matter.

While not depicting any specific historical events, the series of 80 etchings and aquatints respond to the Peninsular War and the harrowing effects of famine in Madrid. The Disasters of War series displays a complex, unfolding narrative that ranges from explicit depictions of soldiers ravaging citizens to the bodies of victims artfully arranged and displayed to gruesome effect, while yet others tend toward the fantastic and allegorical.

In an acquisition proposal, the Museum’s Elizabeth Wyckoff noted that The Disasters of War “has long been on the print collection’s wish list.” She continued:

It is one of the most notable print series in the history of art, both for the character of its technique and for the boldness and intensity with which Goya approached the subject. The artist’s working proofs are considered to be the closest to the artist’s original intention, and yet the artist never completed the set for actual publication. The proofs are also so rare that not more than a handful remain in private hands. While it would also be desirable for the collection to include one or more working proofs, the only way to experience the full impact of the series is to view them together, sequentially, as this first edition set permits.