In the frame: Disasters of War Brighton

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The Independent Culture
"Disasters of War", the touring exhibition of prints from the British Museum which opens in Brighton this morning, takes its title from Goya's "Los Desastres de la Guerra", one man's nightmare of the Napoleonic invasion of Spain and arguably the most famous war art ever made. It is certainly among the most chilling series of images ever produced: 82 prints, of which 69 are on show here, etched between 1820 and 1830, though not published until 1863, after the artist's death. Goya's masterful if desperate prints are joined in this show by Jacques Callot's "Miseries of War", a 17th-century chronicle of an army's descent into chaos and from the 20th century by Otto Dix's Goya-inspired "War", an appalling vision of life in the trenches. They all deal with the small-scale, personalised misery of individual suffering. Not so much with the grand details of war and battle, but with firing squads, burials and the rape and pillage of civilian life. They inspire both revulsion and curiosity and a kind of tabloid interest in the details of the particular disaster, especially in the case of Callot, whose tiny etchings have to be scrutinised to be understood and whose tiny figures reveal the atrocities slowly as you stare.

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Church Street, Brighton (01273 290900) to 4 Oct

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