Jean Beraud

Sur le Champs-Elysées

Oil on canvas: 25.5(h) x 32(w) in /

64.8(h) x 81.3(w) cm

Signed and dated lower right: Jean Béraud / 1892

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JEAN BÉRAUD

St Petersburg 1849 – 1935 Paris

 

Sur les Champs-Elysées

 

Signed and dated lower right: Jean Béraud / 1892

Oil on canvas: 25 ½ x 32 in / 64.8 x 81.3 cm

Frame size:

 

Provenance:

Madame P;

her sale, Hotel Drouot, Paris, 28th March 1927, lot 8 (as L’Avenue des Champs-Elysées en 1892)

M Allard;

Hammer Galleries, New York, 1969 (as Avenue du bois de Boulogne);

H Terry-Engell Gallery, London, 1973;

Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 30th October 1980, lot 89 (as On the Champs-Elysées);

Merryl Israel Aron (1913-2015), New Orleans;

by descent

 

Exhibited:

Hammer Galleries, New York, 1969, The Elegant Epoch, no.11, illus.

 

Literature:

Patrick Offenstadt, Jean Béraud, 1849-1935: The Belle Epoque: A Dream of Times Gone By, Catalogue Raisonné, 1999, p.140, no.125, illus.

 

 

Jean Béraud painted a number of views of the Champs-Elysées, the most fashionable thoroughfare of Paris, lined in Béraud’s day with private mansions. Like Rotten Row in Hyde Park, but on a larger scale, the Champs-Elysées were the stage for the ‘street theatre’ in which Béraud delighted, where members of the bon ton paraded with their fine carriages and exquisitely matched horses, both men and women dressed in the height of fashion. Baron Haussmann’s new Paris, with its huge, tree-lined boulevards, was the setting for affluence and display in an increasingly consumerist society. In 1889 Richard Kaufmann, a Danish visitor, remarked that the Grands Boulevards were ‘the great rendezvous where the whole population flocks together to satisfy its great craving for sociability, where people meet with the wish of being together, and associate with the amiable courtesy and easy approach that is a consequence of the consciousness of being mutually entertaining’[1].

 

In this painting Béraud evokes the joie-de-vivre of a spring day, the geometrical lines of the boulevard softened by the fresh green of the trees and the elegant pastel clothes of the two ladies chatting on the pavement to the left. The broad, uncluttered foreground and the strong diagonals, which lead the eye towards the vanishing point at the Arc de Triomphe, give a sense of the speed of modern life. The smart carriages rush towards the spectator, the high-trotting chestnut in the foreground exuding an energy which is barely restrained by the skilful coachman, while a little dog races to outpace the horse. The passenger is a serene vision of Parisienne chic. By contrast with the bon ton, the workman waiting to cross this flood of traffic seems to belong to another, slower world.

 

In the background, under a moist sky of soft clouds, the Arc de Triomphe forms the architectural focus of the painting. It was begun in 1806 by Napoleon to celebrate his victory at Austerlitz. Completed in 1836, it became a memorial to all Frenchmen who fought in defence of their country and to this day remains a powerful symbol of nationhood and one of the best-loved monuments in Paris.

 

Although a Realist painter in his approach to detail and sense of narrative, Béraud had affinities with the Impressionist movement in his handling of space and composition, for example in the strong geometric underpinning of this boulevard scene, which finds parallels in the work of Giuseppe de Nittis and Gustave Caillebotte. The bold, decorative use of areas of comparatively empty space is influenced by Japanese prints.

 

 

Note on the provenance

 

This painting was part of the collection of Merryl Israel Aron (1913-2015), a champion amateur golfer, businesswoman and philanthropist. She won twelve city championships in her native New Orleans and seven State championships, playing golf across the country with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in World War II to promote War Bonds. Married to coffee broker Sam Israel Jr. (d.1982) and later to his cousin Jack Aron (d.1994), Merryl restored a mansion in the Garden District, which she bequeathed to Tulane University. The Israels’ philanthropy is also commemorated in the Merryl and Sam Israel Jr. Environmental Sciences Building on the Tulane campus.

 

 

 

 

 

Merryl Israel Aron and Bob Hope.

 

JEAN BÉRAUD

St Petersburg 1849 – 1935 Paris

 

 

Jean Béraud was born in St Petersburg in 1849, the son of a French sculptor, Jean Béraud, who had probably moved to the city to work on the cathedral of St Isaac. His mother took the family to Paris after her husband’s death in 1853. Jean, like his future friend Marcel Proust, was educated at the Lycée Bonaparte (today the Lycée Condorcet). He briefly studied law at the University of Paris and in 1870-71 served in the Garde Nationale during the Siege of Paris. Abandoning law for art, in 1872-3 he studied in the studio of the portrait painter Léon Bonnat. Béraud exhibited two portraits at the Salon in 1873, showing there until 1889.

 

Béraud’s Salon exhibit of 1876, After the funeral (private collection), established his reputation as a chronicler of Parisian life in paintings which combine an Impressionistic freedom of brushwork with acute and witty observation of fashions, physiognomies, class and personalities in the ordered chaos of the teeming modern city. Once declaring ‘I find everything but Paris wearisome’, Béraud painted both high life and low life, from aristocratic salons and racing at Auteil to Insoumises in the lock-up, 1886 (private collection), which depicts prostitutes rounded up by the police in the cold light of dawn. A brilliant draughtsman and illustrator, Béraud sketched his Parisians from the windows of horse-drawn cabs.

 

Béraud’s work was greeted with great enthusiasm and he was welcomed into Parisian society, receiving commissions for portraits from famous figures such as the Prince d’Orléans and Prince Troubetskoy. Urbane and exquisitely dressed, he frequented the salons of the Countesses Potocka, de Noailles and d’Agoult, and in 1897 was Proust’s Second in a duel. Béraud, who never married, was also happy in theatrical company: his closest friend was the celebrated actor Coquelin the Elder.

 

Jean Béraud was a founding member and Vice President of the Sociéte Nationale des Beaux-arts, where he exhibited between 1910 and 1929. He was awarded a gold medal from the Society of French Artists in 1889 and a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in 1889. In 1887 he was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur.

 

In 1891 Béraud caused a scandal by exhibiting at the Salon Mary Magdalene visiting the Pharisee (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), which transposed the Biblical story into a contemporary setting and shone a harsh light on modern morals. Several paintings of subsequent decades show the inhabitants of modern Paris taking part in the events of the Bible, such as the Mocking of Christ, or allude to the gap between rich and poor, such as The insurgence, 1896 (private collection). Béraud’s satires were coldly received, although he remained an important figure in the artistic life of Paris. Following his death in 1935, the Musée Carnavalet held a retrospective of his work.

 

The work of Jean Béraud is represented in museums in the Musée du Louvre, Paris; the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; the National Gallery, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC and the Pushkin Museum, Moscow.

 

 

 

[1] Paris of Today, translated from the Danish by Olga Finch, New York, 1891, p.73.

ImpressionistJean Beraud