Francisco Goya, “Modo de Volar (Way to Fly)”, Plate 13 from the “Disparate” Series, The Third Grouping of Plates of the “Disasters of War”, 1816-1823
“The Disasters of War” was not published during Goya’s lifetime, possibly because he feared political repercussions from Fernando VII’s repressive regime. Some art historians suggest that he did not publish because he was sceptical about the use of images for political motives, and instead saw them as a personal meditation and release. Most, however, believe the artist preferred to wait until they could be made public without censorship. A further four editions were published, the last in 1937, so that in total over 1,000 impressions of each print have been printed, though not all of the same quality.
Goya worked on the “Disasters of War” during a period when he was producing images more for his own satisfaction than for any contemporary audience. His work came to rely less on historical incidents than his own imagination. Many of the later plates contain fantastical motifs which can be seen as a return to the imagery of the “Caprichos”, his prints on the universal follies of Spanish society. In this, he is relying on visual clues derived from his inner life, rather than anything that could be recognised from real events or settings. “Modo de Volar” is an example of that return to the “Caprichos” imagery.