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“The practice of representing atrocious suffering as something to be deplored, and, if possible, stopped, enters the history of images with a specific subject: the sufferings endured by a civilian population at the hands of a victorious army on the rampage. It is a quintessentially secular subject, which emerges in the seventeenth century…

“The ghoulish cruelties in The Disasters of War are meant to awaken, shock, wound the viwer. Goya’s art seems a turning point in the history of moral feelings and of sorrow. With Goya, a new standard of responsiveness to suffering enters art. The account of war’s cruelties is fashioned as an assault on the sensibility of the viewer. The expressive phrases in script below each image comment on the provocation. While the image, like every image, is an invitation to look, the caption insists on the difficulty of doing just that. A voice, presumably the artist’s, badgers the viewer: can you bear to look at this? One caption declares: One can’t look (No se puede mirar). Another says: This is bad (Esto es malo). Another retorts: This is worse (Esto es peor). Another shouts: This is the worst! (Esto es lo peor!). Another declaims: Barbarians! (Barbaros!). What madness! (Que locura!), cries another. And another: Why? (Por que?).”

– Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others


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