In the second half of Francisco Goya's career we see his politics come forth. At this time in history CharlesIV has abdicated his throne to his son Ferdinand VII. Napoleon's efforts to outwit the King of Spain has resulted in the tragey depicted in The Third of May, 1808 when a French firing squad executed a "token" number of civilians in Madrid in retaliation for the murder of some of Napoleon's troops by Spanish troops. Here the artist is portraying a current eveny using universal emotions and physical realities going beyond the event becoming somewhat documentary in quality. He did not publish the work and it is compelling to see how he shows the natural horrors of war without national bias (although he was a patriot) and with out mercy for the viewer's sensibilities. Goya was in Madrid at the time the execution took place and made visits to the site later to make sketches of it to ensure the accuracy of his depiction of the bleak hillside and distant city. His main concern, however, was not the accurate recording of fact, but the expression of empathetic horror for the psychological agonies of men facing execution. He uses light on the Christological images of the peasants to manifest his sympathy. Unlike the suave realism of The Family of Charles IV , 1800, Goya's method here is coarse and extreme in its departure from optical fact. The postures and gestures of the figures are shockingly distorted to signal defiance and terror. The French firing squad, a representation of modern warfare are depersonalized. They become an anonymous , murderous wall, while the victims are portrayed as seperate individuals, each facing the moment of death in his own way. The intense psychological reality in it stress on the experience of the individual as one among many, (quite different from the more traditional, more carefully choreographed Baroque staging in Callot's Miseries of War,
and foreshadows Picasso's twentieth-century masterpiece on a related theme Guernica.


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De La Croix, Horst, Richard D. Tansey, and Diane Kirkpatrick.
Art Through the Ages. University of Michigan: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

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