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Guerre civile [Civil War]

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Guerre civile [Civil War]

19th century
48.5 cm x 61.5 cm (19 1/8 in. x 24 3/16 in.)

Edouard Manet (Paris, 1832 - 1883, Paris) Primary

Object Type: print
Artist Nationality: Europe, French
Medium and Support: Crayon lithograph with scraping on chine appliqué
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Teaching Collection of Marvin Vexler, '48, 1999
Accession Number: 1999.21

When civil unrest broke out in Paris in 1871 following the Franco-Prussian War, Edouard Manet witnessed the bloody street battles between government troops and insurgents, as well as the mass executions that quelled the insurrection. The sketches he made of these scenes resulted in two lithographs, one of them Guerre civile. This sheet was printed in an edition of 100 several years after the conflict, when political dissent was more likely to be tolerated.
In Manet’s anti-heroic commentary on the French government’s use of force against its own people, the subject of the composition, the dead soldier in the foreground, has been pushed off-center and dramatically foreshortened. Using a recumbent figure to signal victimhood was a well-established practice. Such figures appear, for example, in works by Pierre-Paul Prud’hon and Jean-Léon Gérôme. Manet himself repeated the pose from his earlier work. The violent cropping of the civilian’s legs in the lower right corner, the loose handling of the crayon in the treatment of the background, and the stark contrast of the dead soldier with the white paper that surrounds him like a shroud all serve to communicate the chaos that immediately preceded this otherwise still scene.

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