Famous for his ability to capture the excitement and bustle of Parisian life in the final decades of the nineteenth century, Jean Béraud did not focus solely upon the denizens of the upper reaches of society. As an artist, Béraud was most concerned with capturing the realities of life in the French capital, and on several occasions, he placed beggar and bourgeois alongside one another in street scenes. Béraud was always true to real life.
In La sortie du bourgeois, Béraud emphasizes the marked differences between the rising middle class and the poor, and by choosing to depict this encounter of the two classes on a cold winter's afternoon, the artist further emphasizes the contrasts between his characters. The elegant gentleman, warm inside his fur-trimmed overcoat and puffing away on his cigar, blithely ignores the shivering adults and children, arms and hands outstretched, begging for alms.
Jean Béraud's entire oeuvre is devoted to the realistic depiction of Parisian life, and he illustrated the denizens of Paris without distinction: the aristocrats and workers, bourgeois and beggars are all painted with the same care and attention to detail. All aspects of city life were fair game to the artist, who often spent his entire day in the back of hackney-cabs, frantically sketching the whirl of fin-de-siècle Paris. A contemporary writer described him thus: "That's Jean Béraud in search of a scene, drawing a small fragment of Paris. Almost all the cab drivers in Paris know him. He's one of their favorite passengers, because he at least doesn't wear their horses out." (Paul Hourie, "Jean Béraud", L'Estafette, 13 September 1880).
fig. 1 Lourdey How M. Jean Béraud Captures the Parisienne's Least Movement, Drawing published in La Revue illustrée, 1 May 1893, p. 355.