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Goya's Disasters of War

September 4 - December 12, 2010

Francisco de Goya, Y no hai remedio (There's no help for it), 1810-1820, etching and drypoint on paper, Collection of Phillip and Lori Lasansky.
In 1808, French forces under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Spain, after having invaded Portugal the previous year, and thus began a violent and protracted war known as the Peninsula War (1807-1814). The Spanish king eventually ceded power to the French and Napoleon installed his brother Joseph as king of Spain. Throughout these tumultuous times, the Spanish people were the primary victims, especially during the bloody days of the uprising in Madrid on May 2-3, 1808, in which hundreds of Spaniards were rounded up and executed by French forces.

Francisco Goya (1746-1828) was a prominent painter and printmaker whose abilities catapulted him to be painter to the Spanish king Charles IV in 1789 and First Court Painter in 1799. Throughout the tumultuous years of the Peninsula War, Goya remained court painter, serving first King Joseph I (Napoleon’s brother), and then for Ferdinand VII (Charles IV’s son) when he returned to Spain in 1813. In 1814, Goya completed two major paintings, The Second of May 1808 and The Third of May 1808, which documented the uprising and subsequent massacre of Spaniards. While Goya never made his own personal intentions known, these two paintings, along with his powerful series of 82 prints known as The Disasters of War, record the horrors of war in Goya’s day.

Goya’s Disasters of War series has often been hailed as the earliest form of war reporting, preceding the Civil War photography of Matthew Brady and the photojournalism seen in the long succession of wars throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries. This series of prints captures all the gruesome horror that war brings with it, from battle scenes, to rape, to mass executions. The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art’s presentation of 47 of the prints in this series was originally scheduled to occur in the fall of 2008, on the 200th anniversary of the Madrid Uprising. The Flood of 2008 interrupted our exhibition plans and the lenders, Phillip and Lori Lasansky, graciously agreed to extend the loan of these tour-de-force prints for this exhibition in 2010.

This exhibition is sponsored in part by the Momentum Fund of The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.


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