The French painter and engraver Louis-Adolphe Hervier was born in Paris in 1818 and died in 1879. His body of work mostly consists of drawings, watercolors and landscapes hinting at the influence of English painters. It depicts few contemporary events. However, in June 1848, like such artists as Daumier and Courbet, who had evoked the 1848 February Revolution and the advent of the Second Republic, he painted, watercolored and lithographed a series on the violent “June Days”, works that show him to have been an eye witness to the events of his time.
Unlike other works that depict the February Revolution enthusiastically Hervier’s series on June focuses on the National Guard’s bloody repression of the workers’ uprising. Hervier’s painting, close to watercolor, is a form of reporting, history captured on the spot. Four insurgents’ corpses are jumbled together higgledy-piggledy on a pile of paving stones and other debris typical of the way the barricades were depicted. The broken bodies lie in every direction, bearing witness to the horror of the events. By refusing to sugarcoat the violence in any way, the artist has placed himself unambiguously on the side of the popular revolt. In an era when many artists were busy developing a whole repertoire of allegories in order to depict contemporary events, others, like Hervier, chose realism. Nonetheless, the tattered red flag in the heart of the composition becomes a symbol of the terrible divide between the bourgeois Republic and the democratic Republic.