Essay on Goya: Truth and War

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Truth and War

On May 2nd 1808 the people of Madrid revolted against the French troops

occupying their city. The following day the French retaliated. In the remembrance of

this event Francisco de Goya painted The Third of May. The horrific scene takes place at

night on a deserted hillside. The feeling of horror is conveyed by the churoscuro use of

lighting. Painted with intense emotional expression the Spaniards stand before there

deaths. The soldiers before them lined up with guns in hand and ready to fire. The

Spaniard facial expression and body language differ
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This was an idea he used in many of his works, for Goya

himself was a conflicted man.

After 1808 Spain was occupied by Napoleonic forces and Goya witnessed first

hand accounts of murder, rape, pillaging, and mutilation. He quietly recorded these

events until Napoleons demise in 1814. During this 6 year period the brutalities and

miseries of war that had occurred effected the lives of every Spaniard as well as the art of

Goya. After the demise of Napoleon, Goya saw a chance to create a permanent

remembrance of this time period. The results were two large paintings recording May

2nd 1808 and May 3rd 1808 when the French shot suspected Spaniards without trial.

Much like Gerricault’s The Raft of Medusa, The Third of May portrays brutal human

tragedy. These two paintings tell stories of heroism turned to horrific tragedy with

scenes so close that the viewer is forced into the event. In-humanity has now become

human. Heroism and suffering now seem equally desperate and pathetic. Although

these two paintings are scenes of tragedy, Goya’s painting correlates more directly to

war. He conveys war in its most brutal form giving the soldiers a machine like quality.

They are lined up in almost identical positioning and attire. Each soldier is in the same

tense stance, gripping his rifle as if it were a part of his body, anticipating the recoil of the

shots to come. The line of the soldiers, as well as
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