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Jean Béraud (French, 1849-1936)
Jean Béraud (French, 1849-1936)

Les grands boulevards. Le Théâtre des Variétés,

Jean Béraud (French, 1849-1936)
Les grands boulevards. Le Théâtre des Variétés,
signed 'Jean Béraud' (lower left)
oil on canvas
15 3/8 x 21 5/8 in. (39 x 55 cm.)
Painted circa 1895
David H. King, Jr., New York.
His sale; Chickering Hall, New York, 17-19 February 1896, lot 19, as Les Boulevard [sic].
J.-S, Bates.
Anonymous sale; Palais Galliera, Paris, 17 March 1971, lot 37.
with Hammer Galleries, New York, by 1972.
with Kornye Gallery, Dallas.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, New York, 28 October 1981, lot 27.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 23 May 1989, lot 101.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
P. Offenstadt, Jean Béraud 1849-1935, The Belle Epoque: A Dream of Times Gone By, Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1999, pp. 84-85, 104, illustrated p. 104, no. 35.
New York, Hammer Galleries, The Elegant Epoch, 11 December - 30 December 1972, no. 3, illustrated.
Roslyn Harbor, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, La Belle Époch & Toulouse-Lautrec, 8 June - 7 September 2003, pp. 27, 43, 86, illustrated p. 27.

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Lot Essay

Although trained as an Academic artist, Béraud’s style has the quick brushstrokes favored by the Impressionists artists. Béraud was close friends with Edouard Manet and frequented the same cafes as Edgar Degas, Pierre Renoir and Henri Toulouse Lautrec. Like them, he concentrated on urban themes in his art, while other Impressionist artists fled Paris and painted landscapes of the surrounding areas. Although his brush and choice of subject matter is imbued with the spirit of Impressionism, Béraud combines this with the more classically accepted styles of the day to create works of a unique character.
In order to create his finished paintings, Béraud traveled the boulevard of Paris in a mobile studio, a converted carriage designed especially so that his might observe firsthand the everyday life if the city. The journalist Henry Bacon wrote about his own experience in Béraud’s studio on wheels: ‘A cab, with the green blind next to the street down, attracted our attention, showing that someone was paying two francs an hour for the privilege of maintaining stationary. Presently up went the curtain and the familiar head of Béraud appeared. At his invitation, we thrust a head into the miniature studio to see his latest picture. His canvas was perched upon the seat in front, his color-box beside him, and with the curtain down on one side to keep out the reflection and shield himself from the prying eyes of the passers-by, he could at ease paint through the opposite window a view of the avenue as a background to a group of figures’ (H. Bacon, Glimpses of Parisian Art, p. 425).
In Les grands boulevards, Le Théâtre des Variétés, Béraud combines all the elements that made him so popular with audiences in Europe and abroad. He has captured through the lens of his brush a moment on the Boulevard Monmartre, outside of the famous theatre. The ubiquitous Morris column anchors the right side of the composition while elegant gentlemen, nattily attired and sporting a variety of hats from bowlers to boaters, stop in the street to chat, read the newspaper or hurry along to the next engagement. Among these gentlemen stands a lone woman who has stopped for a moment on the rain- soaked sidewalk and turns to look for a moment straight at the viewer. This simple device draws the viewer into the scene; one can hear the newsboy shouting, the splash of feet in newly formed puddles, the murmur of voices and the clip clop of horses’ hooves on the muddy streets.
These are images for which Béraud is best remembered, and for which he achieved his reputation as the ‘painter of modern life’. He discussed his views on his unique kind of art, writing humorously that ‘You have to vanquish your feelings of artistic modesty so you can work among people who take the most irritating kind of interest in what you are doing. If you cannot overcome your disgust, you will end up locking yourself away in your house, and painting a woman or a still life, like all your colleagues. For some artists, that was all they needed to produce of masterpiece. But I believe that today we need something different (il faut autre chose)’ Jean Béraud, L. 20, Fondàtion Custodia (coll. F. Lugt) Institute neerlandais, Paris, inv. No 1972-A).

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