Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Goya Notes from Portland Art Museum

Y no hay remedio. Francisco de Goya. Etching, dry point, engraving, and brush bite. 1810-20. Portland Art Museum.

            Y no hay remedio (And it can’t be helped) is a print of The Disasters of War by Francisco de Goya. The depiction itself is morbid as are most of the prints in this series. The scene is set in a dark manner & appears to take place amid a hill top around dusk, as most of the print is in black.  Goya illustrates Spanish guerrilla fighters tied to wooden posts awaiting execution by two firing squads, of which one is anonymous to the picture with only the barrel end of there rifles etched. This print shows us the misery that the Spanish incurred by the anonymous French military while Napoleon was trying to take control. Goya shows this through his use of lines, space, and, light.

            The guns that are on the right of the print are implied lines that direct you to the center where a blindfolded man in awaiting execution. The body language i.e. slumped shoulders and his head facing the ground shows he has accepted that he is going to die. The vertical wooden posts imply that there will be repetitive deaths throughout this war. The Spanish people were tied to the wooden posts to increase the psychological effect of death and lower morale to those who witnessed the executions.

Goya uses the space between the rolling hills to create depth in the print. The space between the men lead us to the sunset which represents that there is still hope in Spain and that it hasn’t been extinguished by the French.  Goya uses space to make the print three dimensional by using shading, overlapping, and making the objects in the background with less clarity except the face of the Spaniard who has pained look.  The space around the Spanish contrasts the closeness of the French military showing that they are invading the space of the Spaniards.

            The lighting is soft with individuals being highlighted more than by the main light source. Goya made this especially odd because the sun is setting behind them and natural light would not show the front of the Spanish however he wanted the viewer to notice in a theatrical way the misery of the tortured. The Spaniard in the front who has already been shot down has a glow of light around his head which Goya added so that the viewer would be able to see the pool of blood. This gives you a sense of the horrific loss that was occurring. Goya is portraying the Spanish as the victims and giving a one sided view so the French appear to be the immoral side.

            Goya uses individual characteristics and facial features on the Spaniards to make the viewer understand that these were neighbors, friends, and family versus the French military who are almost faceless. Goya uses these visual elements; lines, space, and light to emphasize the misery and torment that the people of Spain endured at the hands of Napoleon and ever conquering French military. This is especially exposed through implied lines from the anonymous rifle barrels, the space between the men that lead to the horizon line conveying hope, and the theatrical source of light that enhances the pool of blood.

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