The urban and industrial life of modern France was a favoured theme of Béraud and his contemporaries. These included the housepainters and famous 'Raboteurs de parquet' (floor sanders) of Gustave Caillebotte, the bridges and railways of Claude Monet, and the suburban portraits of workers by Jean-François Raffaëlli. However, whilst these artists - including Béraud himself - usually concentrated on either the activities or the features of their subjects, in the present work virtually the entire emphasis is on the composition, which is even more modern and striking than the subject itself.
Béraud's suspended painter is depicted square-on from behind, providing the only relief against a flat picture plane. The combination of a harmony of muted greys, whites and blacks, and the intersection of starkly horizontal and vertical lines gives more the impression of an abstract work by Piet Mondrian, rather than that of a figurative painting. Indeed, while the nature of the man's activity is not completely clear (is he painting or removing a billboard poster?), this is apparently a secondary consideration to the artist's primarily compositional objectives.
We are grateful to Mr Patrick Offenstadt for kindly confirming the authenticity of this work.