Lot 38
  • 38

Jean Béraud

700,000 - 1,000,000 USD
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  • Jean Béraud
  • Avenue Parisienne
  • signed Jean Béraud (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 15 5/8 by 22 1/4 in.
  • 39.7 by 56.5 cm


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


New York, Knoedler Galleries, Views of Paris, Loan Exhibition of Paintings, 1939, no. 17
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


X. N., "L'autre XIXe siècle," Le Figaro, April 14, 1989, illustrated
Patrick Offenstadt, Jean Béraud, 1849-1935, The Belle Époque: A Dream of Times Gone By, Catalogue Raisonné, Paris, 1999, p. 123, no. 80, illustrated


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This painting is in very good condition. The canvas has been lined and the paint layer is clean. There are retouches around all four sides, perhaps allowing for slightly more generous framing, particularly since this composition extends in all four directions. In the picture proper, there appear to be no further retouches except for a couple of dots addressing cracks in the waistcoat of the waiter in the center.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Jean Béraud, intrigued by all aspects of la vie parisienne, was its scrupulous and devoted observer; the quintessential chronicler of Belle Époque Paris. Following the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), Béraud abandoned previous plans to become a lawyer, and instead studied portraiture with a leading artist of the Third Republic, Léon Bonnat. Emulating Bonnat's choice of subject, Béraud painted portraits of women and children, as well as genre images of Italian peasant women. Béraud began to branch out from portraiture around 1875, developing an interest in representing modern life in Paris. The spectacle of public spaces was a popular subject for French artists in the nineteenth century. Haussmannisation (1852-1870) – the urban planning commissioned by Napoleon III and lead by the Baron George Eugène Haussmann – introduced a public element to private life through wide boulevards for transportation and strolling; innumerable green spaces and several large parks; and overall better street conditions which lead to improved health. In showing the co-mingling of members of different social strata in these newly accessible public settings, artists such as Béraud could capture the modernization of Paris through the actions, dress, and appearances of its inhabitants.

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.