Woodcuts from the Paraguayan War, 1867

These vivid prints were created as illustrations for the Asunción periodical Centinela during the Paraguayan War of 1864-70. This war pitted the Paraguayan army, then the continent's largest, against the combined forces of Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. The conflict eventually consumed the majority of Paraguay's male population, as the dictator Francisco Solano López threw everything he had at the enemy in a futile fight. Centinela and other journals were directed mostly at soldiers, and gave news from the front together with patriotic exhortations.

The prints that illustrated these news sheets were done in woodcut by artists whose patriotic zeal far exceeded their artistic ability. Most of the prints are unsigned. According to Paragayan art historian Josefina Pla, these works are the "peoples' diary of war," coming directly from the trenches, offering "the smile stolen from death each day." The vigor and directness of the subject matter of these works often coordinates nicely with the energy of the gouged line.

Of the hundreds of woodcut illustrations created, only nine original blocks survive. These were restruck by Paraguayan artists at the Centro de Artes Visuales in 1986 and offered in a limited edition. The six images on view here were made from these restrikes.

Index of the Images