Lot 45
  • 45

Jean Béraud

700,000 - 1,000,000 USD
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  • Jean Béraud
  • Place de l'Europe
  • signed Jean Béraud (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 19 by 29 in.
  • 48.3 by 73.6 cm


Henry Hilton (and sold, his sale: American Art Association, New York, February 13, 1900, lot 77, as La Place de L'Europe, Paris)
Henry Seligman
Robert Lebel, Paris (in 1944)
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York (in 1988)
Private Collection, New York
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, October 24, 1989, lot 106, illustrated
Private Collection, New York 
Sale: Christie's, New York, November 1, 1995, lot 19, illustrated
Private Collection, New York 
Richard Green, London


New York, Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies, Paris, A Loan Exhibition, 1943-1944, lot 28, illustrated
Paris, Musée d'Orsay; Washington, D. C., National Gallery of Art,  Manet, Monet, La Gare Saint-Lazare, February 9, 1997-September 20, 1998, no. 1


"Paris Reconstructed in Relief Show," Art Digest, January 1, 1944, illustrated p. 11
Gustave Caillebotte 1848-1849, exh. cat., Paris, 1994, p. 140, illustrated fig. 2
Gustave Caillebotte, Urban Impressionist, exh. cat., Paris, 1995, p. 102, illustrated fig. 2
Gustave Caillebotte, The Unknown Impressionist, exh. cat., London, 1996, p. 78, illustrated
Juliet Wilson-Bareau, Manet, Monet, La Gare Saint-Lazare, exh. cat., New Haven and London, 1997, pp. 95-100, illustrated p. 94, fig. 84
Patrick Offenstadt, Jean Béraud, 1849-1935, The Belle Époque: A Dream of Times Gone By, Catalogue Raisonné, Paris, 1999, pp. 88-9, no. 3, illustrated p. 89


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This painting has recently been restored and could be hung as is. The canvas has been lined. The paint layer is stable and it has been cleaned and retouched. The retouches are faintly visible under ultraviolet light in a few spots in the sky, in the lower left corner and in the carriages, and in a few spots in the darkest colors of the figure group there is a group of retouches. The paint layer is slightly abraded, which is visible around the carriages, in the darkest colors elsewhere and in the masonry of the bridge on the right side. These are areas which would respond to retouching. Because of this varnish it is not immediately clear whether further restorations exist beneath the varnish and so cleaning is not recommended. However there would be advantage to some fine retouching which may further reduce some of the slight thinness.
"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

The radical and extensive redesign of Paris by Baron Haussman marked the birth of modern Paris.  In the process it provided grand vistas of new construction on a large scale and ample inspiration to many nineteenth century French artists.  The view of the newly built Gare St. Lazare is one such now iconic image thanks to its treatment by Manet in his 1874 Salon picture by the same name and to a series of no less than seven paintings by Monet in the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877.  Caillebotte's portrayal of strollers on the contiguous Pont de l'Europe, a mammoth iron girder bridge over the railway tracks, is another such example, which also was featured in the 1877 landmark show (fig. 1). It would seem the product of such dynamism and display in the public realm drew and held the attention of artists on the vanguard of modernism. 

But other more traditional artists were also attracted to this subject and the spirit it engendered with, in the present case, remarkable results.  Jean Béraud is correctly seen as a traditional painter, known in particular as an acute observer and visual chronicler of Parisian life.  He would, like the protagonist in Guy de Maupassant's Les Tombales "keep an eye out for those spectacles, the people, everything that goes by, everything that happens."  The Place d'Europe at the approach to the Gare St. Lazare was to provide just such a stage for Béraud to view and record the spectacles of this changing Paris of the 1870s and at the same time afford an opportunity for a departure from his trademark traditionalism.

Treatment of the same subject by contemporaneous artists naturally invites comparison and indeed at least one comparison of Béraud's depiction of the Place de l'Europe with that of Caillebotte predictably favors the latter as the more modern over the stodgy and old fashioned (Wilson-Bareau, p. 92-99).  But a fresh look may justify a more nuanced and less one-sided evaluation.   Each artist has successfully conveyed that specific moment when several strangers appear together on the bridge, almost like frozen in a photograph.  Both paintings depict as a central figure an elegant man subtly glancing at a fashionably dressed woman, possibly a courtesan judging by her stylish dress, and include the commonplace details of dogs and pedestrians peering over the railings of the bridge. Béraud has incorporated more figures into his composition and they accentuate the movement and activity of the scene.  He shows a mother with her young daughter, who appears fascinated by the steam rising up from the railroad under the bridge (perhaps Béraud's nod to Manet's 1874 Gare St. Lazare).  Compositionally these two figures also recall Vicomte Lepic and his daughters in Degas' 1875 Place de la Concorde.  Horse drawn carriages rush off both sides of the painting; a young boy with a bouquet crosses the bridge.  Just visible over the railing, Béraud has included a distant view of Charles Garnier's opera house, one of the architectural marvels of modern Paris.  All of these elements come together in an almost unnatural juxtaposition, where Béraud has intentionally discarded true perspective; it is not so much a realist depiction of the subjects that matter but our impression of them. 

When compared to Béraud's Paris streets scenes from his entire career (lot 38 is a good reference point) the modernity of Place de l'Europe becomes all the more striking.  In this pivotal moment in art history and in this unique painting, Jean Béraud has become more than just a chronicler of Parisian life, he has become a modern artist.