This gallery offers educators and students an opportunity to study Goya's representations of the Peninsular War, as well as his influence on later artists.
Following the upheaval of France's monarchy during the country's revolution of the late 18th century, an ensuing power vacuum allowed for the ascension of Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 19th century; ruling the Empire of France from 1804 to approximately 1815. This period saw an ambitious, and arguably ruthless, expansion of France's power across the continent of Europe; the military campaigns being typically referred to as the Napoleonic Wars.
The Peninsular War (fought between 1807-1814) refers to Napoleon's campagin for control of the Iberian peninsula; the region of Europe which includes Spain and Portugal. What began as a joint venture between France and Spain in the occupation of Portugal, became a multi-national war with France on one side (following their betrayal to Spain) and Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom (Britain) on the other. The sustained guerilla attacks of a fractured Spain against the organized French army of Napoleon resulted in a significant defeat for the latter and independence for Spain.
Among those who documented this period of chaos was Francisco Goya, who worked as a court painter to the French pretender of the Spanish throne (Joseph Bonaparte - Napoleon's older brother), and then visualized the war's atrocities through paintings such as The Third of May 1808 and a collection of prints entitled Los desastres de la guerra (The Disasters of War). Goya's paintings and prints from this period have been interpreted both as an artistic exploration of the violence that ravaged Spain during the Peninsular War, and as critical commentary towards the actions of both French and Spanish soldiers. This lesson highlights a handful of Goya's works produced during the Peninsular War as will be featured in the upcoming Museum exhibit Goya: Order and Disorder from October 2014 to January 2015.
Learning Goals: In exploring this lesson, students will...
- Gain a general understanding of Spain's political situation during the early-nineteenth-century.
- Appreciate how the application of Goya's technique conveys the senses of horror and violence that occurred during the Peninsular War.
- Learn how Goya's work not only served as an important artistic commentary of the Peninsular War itself, but also as an influence for later war-themed works of art.
Using This Resource: Social Studies teachers will be interested in using this lesson to explore examples of visual art produced during nineteenth-century Europe, and how social-contextual elements are communicated in such examples. Foreign language teachers of Spanish may be interested in using this lesson as a visual component to Goya's literature that accompanied the print collection of Los desastres de la guerra, and exploring Spanish artistic/linguistic history. Visual arts teachers may be interested in using this lesson as an example of how visual art, particularly painting and printmaking, has functioned as "current events;" works that are meant to transport the viewer to a contemporary event in time.
For supplementary activities, historical information, and a bibliography, download/click on the files located under Related Resources at the bottom of this page. The objects in this lesson are just a beginning. We encourage you to explore the Museum's online collection through this web source - or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries - to look for other objects taht will provide further insights into the exhibition of Goya, as well as contemporary nineteenth-century European art.