Édouard Manet, The Barricade, 1871, printed 1884, Lithograph on cream chine collé on white wove paper. Acquired by the Clark, 2007. The Clark Art Institute, 2007.7.1.
France’s war with Prussia (Germany) in 1870 was expected to score a quick victory for Emperor Napoleon III, but instead it led to the disastrous Siege of Paris and great suffering among the civilian population. During the siege, hunger and disease ran rampant, while routine shelling tore apart the fabric of the city. The emperor’s abdication in 1871 ushered in a tumultuous period of civil unrest and street violence known as the Paris Commune, in which an estimated 30,000 people died. Although some artists fled Paris during these convulsions, others, including Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas, remained. Manet’s lithograph of The Barricade records the shooting of socialist Communards by French army troops, in an echo of the firing squad in his earlier composition The Execution of Maximilian (1867).