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War crimes.

GOYA PAINTED THIS PICTURE AS AN ANGUISHED RESPONSE to an atrocity of war. It commemorates the execution of the citizens of Madrid who rose up against the Napoleonic invaders in 1808. Unlike previous painters of war, Goya shows neither the nobility of war nor the victorious general on horseback. It is a direct, unflinching image of the common people in extremis.

It has been called the first European painting to depict the raw killing of war. Everything about it is designed to shock, from the brilliant light falling on the huddled prisoners, the pitiful way they cover their faces or wring their hands, and the pungent smears of blood on the ground, to the nearness of the executioners' muzzles to their victims. Goya's greatest strokes are compositional: He shows only the backs of the soldiers, illustrating the notion of killing as anonymous, faceless, callous; and he makes the brightest part of the canvas the figure of the man with his arms flung wide, as if awaiting crucifixion.

He is Goya's Everyman, a martyr for all those killed in the struggle against a foreign invader, for all those who die in disastrous, murderous wars.

By PHILIP HARTIGAN, an artist and writer living in Chicago. Image: Tres de Mayo, 1808. Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828). Painted in 1814. Museo del Prado, Madrid. Erich Lessing/Art Resource, N.Y.
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Title Annotation:meditation; Francisco de Goya's painting
Author:Hartigan, Philip
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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