Fantasies, Follies and Disasters: The Prints of Francisco de Goya

Monday 1st March 2010

27 February – 25 July 2010, Manchester Art Gallery, Free entry

Fantasies, Follies and Disasters features 30 rarely-displayed prints selected from the artist’s three best-known and most significant groups of etchings: Los Caprichos (The Fantasies), Los Desastres della Guerra (The Disasters of War), and Los Disparates (The Follies). Opening on 27 February 2010, this exhibition is the second selection of prints by Goya from Manchester Art Gallery’s collections to be shown, refreshed following an earlier display put together in August 2009.

The works are all drawn from Manchester Art Gallery’s superb collections, and have not been exhibited together as a group for over 20 years. The gallery’s collection of graphic works by the artist is recognised for being one of the most important in the world. It includes over 90 rare first-edition examples of etchings which were purchased in the early 1980s from the estate of the leading Goya scholar Tomás Harris.

Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) was one of the most important and influential European artists of his time. As both Principal Painter to King Charles IV and Director of Painting at the Spanish Royal Academy, he was awarded Spain’s highest professional honours. Goya also enjoyed a prolific and lucrative career in the portraiture business; his numerous sitters were frequently figures of the establishment.

Yet behind his public facade Goya was profoundly disaffected. In 1792 an illness left him deaf and increasingly introspective. Like other Spanish intellectuals, he was also deeply concerned by his nation’s troubles: Spain in the late 18th century was widely considered to be backward and rife with poverty and corruption, and the country’s suffering was only to be compounded by the French occupation in 1808.

Goya’s etchings, produced largely in private, provide a window into the tormented imagination of this extraordinary artist. His prints feature a mixture of satirical caricatures attacking the ignorance and hypocrisy of late 18th century Spanish society and the Church, and dark, nightmarish landscapes exposing the atrocities and misery suffered in war. Only fully known after his death, many of the works were withheld from publication during his lifetime because of their controversial and disturbing qualities. Yet, today Goya is as well known for these works of art, as he is for his portraits of Europe’s 18th century nobility.

The exhibition includes some of Goya’s most memorable, satirical images: animals are shown portrayed as humans, for example, to provide cutting commentary on the corruption, stupidity and vanity of nobility, the clergy and wider society. While his famous war subjects withhold nothing in their horrified depiction of violence, torture and famine. Yet Goya’s later, final etchings are perhaps the most memorable of all, transforming some of his earlier themes into a timeless, dreamlike world which anticipates much of twentieth-century art.

Manchester City Council’s Executive Member of Culture and Leisure, Councillor Mike Amesbury commented:
“This excellent free exhibition is another fine example of how Manchester Art Gallery is regularly refreshing and updating displays. The gallery is constantly creating new exhibitions to ensure that many of the exceptionally important yet delicate artworks held in its collection can be seen by the public on a regular basis.”

An accompanying exhibition inspired by Goya’s etchings Visual Dialogues is also on display until 25 July. It includes Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Goya-inspired installation Disasters of War, on loan from Tate, and an installation devised by a team of local young people with a particular interest in art, who are known as the gallery’s Creative Consultants.


For further information and images, please contact Jenny Davies, Communications Manager, Manchester Art Gallery. Tel 0161 235 8864 or email

Issued February 2010

Notes to Editors
Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL
Tel: 0161 235 8888 Textphone: 0161 235 8893

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