Jean Béraud’s images of Parisian life earned him the high praise of being ‘Le Boilly de fin de siècle’ from his contemporary, the art critic Roger Ballu (Le Salon illustré, July 1889). Béraud clearly loved the city, and his pictures chronicle the customs and fashions of his era with precise detail. Belle Époque journalist Paul Hourie wrote: ‘when you paint scenes from everyday life, you have to place them in their context and give them their authentic setting. This means that, in order to be sincere, you have to photograph them on the spot, and forget about the conventions of the studio. As a result, Jean Béraud has the strangest life imaginable. He spends all of this time in carriages. It is not unusual to see a cab parked on a corner of a street for hours on end, with an artist sitting inside, firing off rapid sketches. That’s Jean Béraud in search of a scene, drawing a small fragment of Paris. Almost all the cab drivers in the city know him. He’s one of their favorite passengers, because he at least does not wear their horses out’ (Offenstadt, p. 9). Béraud was the perfect flâneur, ‘a passionate spectator whom we might liken to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself (V. Steele, Paris Fashion – A Cultural History, New York, 1988, p. 90). Béraud’s Paris and its denizens were always captured with the accuracy of a camera lens.
Béraud was a close friend of Edouard Manet, and frequented the same cafes, restaurants and theatres as Degas, Renoir and Toulouse Lautrec. He shared with the Impressionist artists a spontaneity of brushwork and interest in the naturalistic effects of the play of light and shadow across the boulevard and upon the buildings in the background, all of which are clearly evident in this painting.