- Jean Béraud
- Avenue Parisienne
- signed Jean Béraud (lower right)
- oil on canvas
Private Collector, Palm Beach (and sold: Christie's, New York, February 23, 1989, lot 111, illustrated)
Richard Green, London
Private Collector, Connecticut
Property of an Estate (and sold: Christie's, New York, May 27, 1992, lot 54, illustrated)
Richard Green, London
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Scènes et figures parisiennes, 1943, no. 11
London, Richard Green, A Summer Trilogy of XIXth and XXth Centuries European Paintings, 1989, no. 17
Patrick Offenstadt, Jean Béraud, 1849-1935, The Belle Époque: A Dream of Times Gone By, Catalogue Raisonné, Paris, 1999, p. 123, no. 80, illustrated
To create his finished paintings, Béraud traveled the boulevards of Paris in a mobile studio, a converted carriage designed specifically so that he might observe the mundane, transient incident of city life firsthand. Belle Époque journalist Paul Hourie described the pains which Béraud took: "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 his time in carriages. It is not unusual to see a cab parked at the corner of a street for hours on end, with an artist sitting inside, firing off rapid sketches. That 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 favourite passengers, because he at least doesn't wear their horses out" (as quoted in Offenstadt, p. 9).
Avenue Parisienne shows a particularly bustling day on a classic Parisian boulevard. Distinctive characters occupy the scene; the waiter, perhaps calling out for a carriage for one of his clients; the well-dressed parisienne hurrying toward her destination; the resting butcher reading the newspaper with a sharpening-steel leaning against him; the well-to-do gentleman taking a moment's rest as he gazes out onto the busy street. Béraud gives each of his figures an individual expression, but adds an element of psychological ambiguity in their distinct detachment from one another, inviting the viewer to become engaged in the mis-en-scène.
Dozens of figures are seen in the background and inside the horse drawn omnibus on the far right. The "omnibus" (meaning "for all" in Latin), created by Stanislas Baudry in 1828 in Nantes, was the first form of organized urban public transportation. He took his idea to Paris and in 1853 the first double-decker omnibuses were created; the upper level was cheaper and, as seen in the far right of the composition, often uncovered. In 1913, the last of the horse drawn omnibuses were officially replaced by their motorized equivalent.