Rena Hoisington, curator and head of the department of old master prints at the National Gallery of Art
Although the Spanish artist Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) first experimented with aquatint in the late 1770s, he returned to it in the 1790s to revisit and create anew his drawings, ultimately realizing the most important and influential works in the history of the medium. This talk will consider how aquatint became a unique means for Goya to explore darkness technically, pictorially, thematically, and metaphorically through two of his series Los Caprichos (1799) and Disasters of War (1810/1820, published posthumously).
With the publication of the 80 prints in Los Caprichos, Goya effectively launched new subject matter. The aquatinted imagery and pithy captions of the prints in this series made veiled references to the political, social, and religious issues of his day as well as provided an opportunity, as Goya stated in an advertisement, “to exercise the author’s imagination.”
Created in response to the Napoleonic occupation of Spain (1808-1814) during the Peninsula War, Goya’s 82 prints in Disasters of War expose war’s horrors and depict the upheaval and widespread devastation in the wake of the conflict, including scenes of French atrocities and the Madrid famine of 1811-1812.
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