influential images

Desasteres de la Guerra plate 50 Madre infeliz! (unhappy mother!): 1863. 15.5 x 20.5cm Madrid . Etching and Aquatint.

The etching and aquatint Madre Infeliz (Unhappy Mother) is an example of the cavernous black that Goya used in his prints. It shows a woman that is dead, being carried away by three civilian men and her small distressed child following this solemn cortege. The arcane oppressive black that surrounds the sobbing child is despairingly symbolic of that of an orphan. The space between the mother and child is one that the viewer is reluctantly drawn to. The young woman's facial features are exposed to us as if to confirm the tragedy, her limp lifeless body drapes from the arms of the man that looks back at the desolate child. The etched lines at their feet and the soft tonal textures above these markings suggest a horizon and therefore possibly the event is depicted outside. There is an inanimate body lying in the background, which suggests that outside of Goya’s frame there are other horrors that we have yet to see. This evocative print has all the qualities of romanticism in the frustration and insanity surrounding this scene.

Suffering and madness were a theme that Goya had a curiosity for, he was Possibly one of the first artists to portray asylum scenes. They exhibited a contemporary manner for representing reality and this was a vast change from the more decorative and symmetrical restraint of the previous movements. Romanticism was the progression of imagination and transcendentalism. However Goya understood that such pathos could not hold continuous high interest in his society and so he maneuvered his themes to the dark humour within humanity.