Art has always been a means of communicating a message, to record historical events or just a way to share important information. In the paintings The Third of May 1808 and The Execution of Emperor Maximillian relaying a message is easily seen as the purpose of these two paintings. The Third of May 1808 was made in 1814 and was made with oil paint using a canvas as its’ platform. The painting The Execution of Emperor Maximillian was also painted on a canvas using oil paint and was made between 1868 and 1869 (Gateways to Art: Understanding the Visual Arts).
Though these two paintings were made 50 years apart from each other both convey an identical message.The piece titled The Third of May was made by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya caught my eye, (pg.637 Gateways to Art: Understanding the Visual Arts). This painting is highly respected because it is a superb illustration of an event that took place while Napoleon was on his quest to conquer Spain and Portugal.
Napoleon Bonaparte is one of the most respected commanders of France. He is most known for his attempt to conquer Spain and Portugal. After becoming an ally of the two countries, he ordered his militia to march against them conquering both countries (Napoleіn Bonaparte). The battles painted by Goya consist of one on May 2, 1808, and the very next day when the Spaniards were unable to protect their homeland and were defeated, giving up their country. These two historic events are portrayed in the paintings made by Goya. In The Third of May it shows a group of French soldiers in line being commanded by the military officer to fire their rifles at the Spaniards. In this painting, it appears that many of the Spanish soldiers are either dead on the ground, running away in fear, or surrendering but yet are still being fired upon. This is clearly shown by the painted man in white raising his arms above his head, proclaim his surrender. This historical event meant very much to Francisco as he himself was living in Spain at the time (Francisco Goya- Biography and Legacy).Francisco Goya shows a moment in history, a specific time where the Spanish are in sheer terror facing their death. This painting shows the sense of humanity the Spaniards have by highlighting their facial expression of fear during their time of death. The French soldiers are shown having the complete opposite showing no sign of remorse based on their facial expression, and their focus on killing the Spanish soldiers. The rebel in white is at the center of attention with his hands raised above his head. This was done to correspond to the crucifixion of Christ, as he is sacrificing himself for his country (Francisco Goya, The Third of May,1808). The lighting of the painting also plays a part in the way viewers feel about the Spanish rebels and French soldiers, by portraying a source of light shining on the Spanish and the French surrounded by darkness. Goya expressing his feeling regarding the Spaniards that died during the war, emphasizing his respect for the those killed May 3, 1808. This painting was also made just before photography was invented; this might have been the reason behind the exaggerated facial expression of the painted Spaniards. The second piece of art I chose from the video Conflict and Resistance actually resembled the painting made by Francisco Goya, the painting titled The Execution of Emperor Maximilian. This painting was made by ‰douard Manet and signifies a similar event of Austrian Archduke Maximilian and his two officers being executed. Emperor Maximillian was crowned by Napoleon III of France in 1863, at this time French controlled Mexico. Mexico had a debt with numerous countries including Spain, France, and Britain, so in 1861 they were conquered by the nations they owed (The Execution of Maximillian). Though by the time Maximillian was going to have his coronation, France had already lost the majority of their control of Mexico. By 1867, Napoleon III abandoned Emperor Maximillian by order all troops to be withdrawn from Mexico. As shown in the painting, Maximillian was captured and then executed by means of a firing squad. This painting like the one by Goya communicates the same message, just not as startling or gruesome. The painting by Manet serves as a report of the execution. The painting does not necessarily take a specific side and seems unclear of who is shown as the knave, this painting still served as an important figure to the French government and Napoleon III.Due to the invention of photography, in contrast to the painting made by Goya, Manet’s painting shows less detail resembling a photo that is not focused. Although, there is still enough focus and clarity to understand what is going on in that event. Also, unlike the detailed facial expressions seen on The Third of May Manet’s painting of the Emperor’s execution depicts everyone shown emotionless. Instead, Manet uses color to portray the mood of this painting.I am convinced that artists played a crucial role and even had the responsibility during times of trouble to influence the world and take note of events taking place. Prior to the invention of photography, artists were responsible for creating a visual representation of all aspects of the world, including, culture, fashion, and even government documentation. After the invention of photography, artists seemed to be less descriptive in their work, photographers were now able to reproduce every aspect of an event. The use of art has always been a way to encourage and inspire emotions, often being used in times of war to rally the citizens of a nation, placing a responsibility on artists to create a piece understood by anyone.