Art Through Time: A Global View
Conflict and Resistance Art: Y no hai Remedio (And There’s Nothing to Be Done)
Francisco Goya was the official court painter for Spanish King Charles IV until the monarch was removed from the throne during Napoleon’s invasion of Spain in 1808.
That year, the leading general of Spain’s army called upon Goya’s services. The artist was sent to the general’s hometown of Saragossa to record the glories of its citizens in the face of French atrocities. The sketches that Goya began in 1808 and continued to create throughout and after the Spanish War of Independence would eventually result in the print series he called Fatal consequences of the bloody war in Spain with Bonaparte, and other emphatic caprices. Rather than depicting local heroics, however, the Disasters of War, as the series came to be known, focused on the widespread suffering experienced in wartime and the brutality inflicted by both sides during periods of armed conflict.
The Disasters series is comprised of more than eighty etchings, which range from the haunting and stark, to the horrific and grotesque. Y no hai Remedio (And There’s Nothing to Be Done)depicts the hopelessness and despair that the title signals. One prisoner, already executed, lies contorted on the ground at the feet of a bound, blindfolded man awaiting his own death. His executioners are represented only by the barrels of their rifles aiming menacingly from the right-hand edge of the frame. The same scene is multiplied in the background. The raw pessimism and emotional intensity of this and other prints in the series were perhaps too potent for a public audience in the aftermath the war. The Disasters series was not published in its entirety until 1863, several decades after Goya’s death.
Christine Giviskos, Associate Curator, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum
“Goya created his print series The Disasters of War—he starting working on it around 1809, 1810 and worked on it for the next several years. And this was in direct response to the serious warfare taking place in Spain following the invasion of Napoleon’s troops in 1808, in the spring of 1808.
When Goya finished the series, by 1814, the war was over—French troops had been driven out of Spain, the monarchy had been restored. So Goya actually didn’t publish those prints during his lifetime. They were published much later, but he did print some proofs and we know that in his immediate circle that they had been seen and discussed.
Negative commentary on war was not always common. Goya made two paintings of the second of May 1808 and the third of May 1808. He made those paintings actually in 1814, but there were prints made relatively soon after that sort of reported the incidences of the uprising and then the execution that took place on those days. It was more a kind of the equivalent of photography today when there’s an embedded reporter taking pictures of battle. These prints are more the equivalent of that kind of imagery as opposed to Goya’s artistic, more artistic renderings of the subjects.
I think Goya did want people to stop and think and maybe question their own assumptions and beliefs, and those assumptions and beliefs of those around them. I think because he was an intellectual himself, because he was interested in the enlightenment, he was trying to find his way to participate in that enlightened, instructive kind of thinking.”
Eisenman, Stephen F., ed. Nineteenth Century Art: A Critical History. London and New York: Thames & Hudson, 1994.
Hofer, P., and Francisco Goya. The Disasters of War. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1967.
Hofmann, Werner. Goya. London and New York: Thames & Hudson, 2003.
Rosenblum, Robert. 19th Century Art. New York: Abrams, 1984.
Tomlinson, Janis. Francisco Goya y Lucientes: 1746–1828. London: Phaidon, 1999.
Tomlinson, Janis. Graphic Evolutions: The Print Series of Francisco Goya. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.