The 3rd of May by Francisco de Goya (Museo del Prado)
Great art is timeless, and speaks to us across time, culture and space. Yet great works come from real people living real lives—whether their work was made 5 minutes or 500 years ago. In this series, popular Smithsonian Associates speaker Paul Glenshaw looks at great works of art in their historical context. He delves into the time of the artist, explores the present they inhabited, and what shaped their vision and creations.
In The 3rd of May by Francisco Goya, the brutal scene of a mass execution still manages to shock, even more than 200 years after its creation. But what does it actually depict? What were the events that so outraged Goya to create this iconic work? He was painter to the Royal Spanish Court and admirer of the French enlightenment, yet he depicts French soldiers as an anonymous, inhumane machine killing his countrymen. The background of this painting tells us a lot about Goya and his time—how the artist, born of lower-middle class origins, worked his way to the highest echelons of Spanish society yet retained his connection to the people of his roots. Discover how his collision with the ruthless conquering ambition of Napoleon created this masterpiece.
Glenshaw is an artist, educator, author, and filmmaker with more than 30 years’ experience working across disciplines in the arts, history, and sciences.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*
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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.