Disasters of War: Exhibition Fitzwilliam Museum and Tate
This portfolio of 83 etchings plus 12 proofs is the Chapman brothers’ response to, and reinterpretation of, Goya’s famous series of The Disasters of War.
And 3 D models in the Tate Gallery
Series of 82 prints created as a visual protest against the violence of the 1808 Dos de Mayo Uprising, the subsequent Peninsular War of 1808–14 and the setbacks to the liberal cause following the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1814. Goya was in poor health and almost deaf when, at 62, he began work on the prints. They were not published until 1863, 35 years after his death. It is likely that only then was it considered politically safe to distribute a sequence of artworks criticising both the French and restored Bourbons.
The series was produced using a variety of intaglio printmaking techniques, mainly etching for the line work and aquatint for the tonal areas, but also engraving and drypoint. considered in three groups which broadly mirror the order of their creation. The first 47 focus on incidents from the war and show the consequences of the conflict on individual soldiers and civilians. The middle series (plates 48 to 64) record the effects of the famine that hit Madrid in 1811–12, before the city was liberated from the French. The final 17 reflect the bitter disappointment of liberals when the restored Bourbon monarchy, encouraged by the Catholic hierarchy, rejected the Spanish Constitution of 1812 and opposed both state and religious reform. Goya’s scenes of atrocities, starvation, degradation and humiliation have been described as the “prodigious flowering of rage” The serial nature in which the plates unfold has led some to see the images as similar in nature to photography.
Eric William Ravilious (1903 – 1942) was an English painter, designer, book illustrator and wood engraver. He grew up in East Sussex. He was educated at Eastbourne School of Art and then at the Royal College of Art (1922–5), where he was taught by Paul Nash and became close friends with Edward Bawden. His watercolour landscapes and rural interiors often featured the downland and coast of southern England; haunting and lyrical, these works show a world in suspense and often feature chalk hill figures, and empty rooms (e.g. Farmhouse Bedroom, 1939; London, V&A). He achieves an amazing feeling of light. In 1939 he became a War Artist, and during World War II he depicted such subjects as De-iceing Aircraft (c. 1942; London, Imp. War Mus.). He died while observing a sea rescue mission.
Apart from a brief experimentation with oils in 1930 – inspired by the works of Johan Zoffany – Ravilious painted almost entirely in watercolour. He was especially inspired by the landscape of the South Downs around Beddingham. He frequently returned to Furlongs, the cottage of Peggy Angus. He said that his time there “altered my whole outlook and way of painting, I think because the colour of the landscape was so lovely and the design so beautifully obvious … that I simply had to abandon my tinted drawings”. Some of his works, such as Tea at Furlongs, were painted there.
Ravilious was accepted as a full-time salaried artist by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee in December 1939. He was given the rank of Honorary Captain in the Royal Marines and assigned to the Admiralty. From here he painted some of how most powerful watercolours.
In the mid-1930s he took up lithography, making a print of Newhaven Harbour for the “Contemporary Lithographs” scheme, and a set of full-page lithographs, mostly of shop interiors, for a book called High Street, with text by J. M. Richards. Following a trip in a submarine in the war he produced Submarine Dream, a set of 11 lithographs.
In February 1936, Ravilious held his second exhibition at the Zwemmer Gallery and again it was a success, with 28 out of the 36 paintings shown being sold. This exhibition also led to a commission from Wedgwood to for ceramic designs. His work for them included a commemorative mug to mark the abortive coronation of Edward VIII; the design was revised for the coronation ofGeorge VI. Other popular Ravilious designs included the Alphabet mug of 1937, and the china sets, Afternoon Tea (1938), Travel (1938), and Garden Implements (1939), plus the Boat Race Day cup in 1938. Production of Ravilious’ designs continued into the 1950s, with the coronation mug design being posthumously reworked for the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. He also undertook glass designs for Stuart Crystal in 1934, graphic advertisements for London Transport and furniture work for Dunbar Hay in 1936. Ravilious and Bawden were both active in the campaign by the Artists’ International Association to support the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War. Throughout 1938 and 1939, Ravilious spent time working in Wales, the south of France and at Aldeburgh to prepare works for his third one-man show, which was held at the Arthur Tooth & Sons Gallery in 1939.