Goya’s original ‘Disasters of War’ to be published in facsimile for the first time



The Folio Society has announced it is publishing a facsimile of Goya’s original set of proof impressions for Disasters of War (Los Desastres de la Guerra); the etchings documenting Goya’s response to the Napoleonic invasion of Spain, the famine in Madrid and the repressive government of Ferdinand VII. Created between 1810 and 1820, and now housed in the British Museum, the proofs were assembled by Goya himself for his friend, the art historian and collector Ceán Bermúdez. This is the first ever facsimile to be produced from this remarkable album and will be limited to 980 numbered copies.

Recognised as a significant moment in the history of reportage, the Disasters of War unflinchingly reveals atrocities without partisan bias. The images remain as relevant today as when they were first created. Linked by Goya’s laconic handwritten captions, faithfully reproduced in this edition, it can be seen as a forerunner of the graphic novel. The truth about suffering is laid bare without false heroics; there is no glory, only pity. All the images were completed after the illness which left Goya permanently deaf and had a profound psychological effect on him and his work. Apparently suppressed for political reasons, they were not published until 1863, many years after his death, under the title Los Desastres de la Guerra.

Goya, described by biographer Robert Hughes as ‘the first modern artist’, and considered by many to be the father of modern art, has influenced countless significant artists from Delacroix and Manet to Degas and Picasso. Jake and Dinos Chapman used the set of prints from the 1937 edition of Disasters of War for ‘Insult to Injury’, film maker Danny Boyle claims the artist as one of his heroes, and in his 1947 book about Goya’s etchings, Aldous Huxley observed: ‘And so the record proceeds, horror after horror, unalleviated by any of the splendors which other painters have been able to discover in war; for, significantly, Goya never illustrates an engagement, never shows us impressive masses of troops marching in column or deployed in the order of battle …. All he shows us is war’s disasters and squalors, without any of the glory or even picturesqueness.’

The reproduction of these culturally significant prints is being undertaken by The Folio Society, which has extensive expertise in the creation of facsimile editions, including Van Gogh’s sketchbooks published last year in association with the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

The Folio facsimile, limited to 980 numbered copies, is bound in leather with hand marbled endpapers to match the original and presented in a display box. It is accompanied by a scholarly commentary volume by Mark McDonald, formerly Assistant Keeper of Old Master Prints and Spanish Drawings at the British Museum and now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

All etchings reproduced by permission of the Trustees of the British Museum.


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