Goya's "Disasters of War" and Tolstoy's "War and Peace": A Dialogue Between Art and Literature

  • 7:00 pm

University of Iowa Main Library, Special Collections Reading Room, 3rd Floor
125 W. Washington Street, Iowa City

Join Dr. Anna Barker and Dr. Joyce Tsai, curators of the upcoming Special Collections Reading Room exhibit, as they discuss the remarkable connections between the world of Russian writer Leo Tolstoy and Spanish artist Francisco de Goya.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) began work on his novel "War and Peace" in 1863, the same year that Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes’ (1746 – 1828) "Disasters of War" was first published in its entirety. Goya made the plates for the iconic series during the Peninsular War (1807-1814) between Spain and the French Empire led by Napoleon Bonaparte; Tolstoy’s novel dealt with Napoleon’s invasion of Russia during the same period. Tolstoy was born in 1828 and only knew of the battles of the period from extensive research and eyewitness accounts. However, he fought in the Crimean War (1853-1856) against Napoleon III of the Second Empire. His novel, just as Goya’s prints, testifies to the horrors of war.

Tolstoy depicts the main battle of the novel, the Battle of Borodino, the subsequent occupation of Moscow and the disastrous French retreat from Russia through the eyes of a civilian, Count Pierre Bezukhov. Pierre's visceral descriptions of the carnage of war underscore the brutal and dehumanizing nature of the conflict. Tolstoy’s language, his indictment of war resonates powerfully with Goya’s prints.

2019 marks the 150th anniversary of the book publication of "War and Peace." The Stanley Museum of Art has joined with Special Collections to mark this occasion to pair the presentation of Tolstoy’s novel in conversation with Goya’s prints. This presentation coincides with the exhibition "Disasters of War," which takes place at the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art in the Iowa Memorial Union, co-curated by Tsai, Barker, and Luis Martín-Estudillo.

Dr. Anna Barker is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature who has been teaching Tolstoy’s War and Peace annually since 2008. In 2012 Anna participated in the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 which included a collaboration with the Iowa City Book Festival (public reading of the entire novel), University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art (Napoleon and the Art of Propaganda exhibition), and University of Iowa Symphony (Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture). Anna has attended the Tolstoy and World Literature conference at the Tolstoy estate at Yasnaya Polyana and presented her research on War and Peace. The current celebration will culminate in yet another public reading of the novel (September 30 - October 4), a FilmScene screening of the 1965-67 Russian film War and Peace (October 6-10), and a September 19 WorldCanvass dedicated to Tolstoy and Goya. 

Dr. Joyce Tsai is Chief Curator at the Stanley Museum of Art, Director of the Intermedia Research Initiative, and Associate Professor of Practice at the School of Art and Art History. Her curatorial, pedagogical, and scholarly work engage questions of technology, politics, philosophy in modern and contemporary art. Her book, László Moholy-Nagy: Painting after Photography is winner of the Phillips Collection Book Prize.

Event will be held at Special Collections on the 3rd floor of the Main Library. Snacks provided at 6:30 p.m. with talk starting at 7:00 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: elizabeth-riordan@uiowa.edu

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in a program, please contact the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art in advance at 335-1727.