Vienna museum displays images from the war in Ukraine alongside scenes of Napoleonic violence

Heartbreaking photographs documenting the destruction and heartbreak of Russia’s war on Ukraine are on display in one of Austria’s most popular museums alongside artwork by Francisco de Goya documenting the war in Napoleon.

The Albertina Gallery in Vienna, a museum steeped in tradition located in the heart of the Austrian capital, presented “The Disasters of War. Goya and the Present.”

The exhibition features 40 photos taken by Ukrainian documentary and street photographer Mykhaylo Palinchak as well as prints by Spanish artist Goya.

A photo by photographer Mykhaylo Palinchak illustrating the disasters of the Russian-Ukrainian war, on display at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, the Austrian capital.
Mykhaylo Palinchak/Zenger

Albertina manager Klaus Albrecht Schroeder said, “It’s not a regular show. It’s a statement.”

Schroeder described Palinchak and Goya as “renowned war documentarians”.

He added, “Their works are painful reminders that everything must be done to end all kinds of violent conflict.”

Mykhaylo Palinchak Ukraine war photos
A photo by photographer Mykhaylo Palinchak illustrating the disasters of the Russian-Ukrainian war, on display at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, the Austrian capital.
Mykhaylo Palinchak/Zenger

Palinchak’s footage shows passengers on crowded evacuation trains, demolished buildings, young soldiers and families fleeing on foot.

The photographer said: “I never intended to become a war photographer. The war has come to my town. I had no choice.

“I saw mass graves and massacres committed in the streets leading to Vienna.”

Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to International Organizations in Vienna, said: “Exhibitions like this are of great importance. In the 21st century, there is no place for war.

Mykhaylo Palinchak Ukraine war photos
A photo by photographer Mykhaylo Palinchak illustrating the disasters of the Russian-Ukrainian war, on display at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, the Austrian capital.

Goya (1747-1828) creates his distressing Disasters of War (Los desastres de la guerra) series between 1810 and 1820.

The artist was 62 years old and in poor health when he started working on the drypoint engravings. They were published in 1863, 35 years after his death.

Goya never revealed what inspired him to create the series of prints. However, art historians regard them as a statement against the violence of the May 2 uprising, the ensuing Peninsular War, and the reverses of the liberal cause after the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1814.

Francisco de Goya with or without reason
Painting by Spanish painter Francisco de Goya ‘Con razón o sin ella’ (‘With or without reason’) in the Albertina Museum in Vienna, the Austrian capital.
Albertina, Vienna/Zenger

The May 2 uprising took place in Madrid in 1808. It was a rebellion of civilians alongside the military against the occupation of the city by French troops.

The Peninsular War (1808-1814) was a military conflict fought by Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom against the invading and occupying forces of Napoleon Bonaparte’s First French Empire.

Goya was appointed court painter to the Spanish Crown in 1786. He retained his position during the conflicts between Spain and France.

The exhibition will be presented at the Albertina until August 21.

Mykhaylo Palinchak Ukraine war photos
A photo by photographer Mykhaylo Palinchak illustrating the disasters of the Russian-Ukrainian war, on display at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, the Austrian capital.
Mykhaylo Palinchak/Zenger

The Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24 this year. This caused the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

It is estimated that 6.7 million refugees have had to flee their country of origin. About 8 million people have been displaced inside Ukraine.

Austria has registered around 40,000 Ukrainian refugees since the start of the war. The official federal statistics agency Statistik Austria announced that Ukrainians accounted for 83% of Austria’s overall population increase in the first quarter of this year.

The Albertina is located in the Innere Stadt district of Vienna, directly opposite the State Opera. It is the fifth most popular site in the city in recent years. In 2018, the museum recorded around 1 million visitors, compared to 792,000 in 2017.

Francisco de Goya Lo mismo The Same
Spanish painter Francisco de Goya’s painting named ‘Lo mismo’ (‘The Same’) in the Albertina Museum in Vienna, the Austrian capital.
Albertina, Vienna/Zenger

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.

Julia P. Cluff