Édouard Manet painted Rochefort's Escape after December 1880 with the intent to enter his painting in the Salon of 1881. His subject is the journalist Rochefort, who founded the political newspaper La Lanterne in 1868 to show his virulent opposition to the imperial regime. The newspaper, which was published in Brussels, was soon banned. In 1873, Rochefort was sentenced to penal servitude for his role during the Commune. His spectacular, swashbuckling escape by sea in 1874 inspired Manet to paint this strange composition six years after the event. Before tackling the subject, Manet waited for the Republican victory in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies in January 1879, and for the law granting the communards amnesty in July 1880 that permitted Rochefort’s return to France. This painting is the smaller of two versions. The other version is in the Kunsthaus, Zurich.
oil on canvas • 80 x 72 cm