- Jean Béraud
- Brasserie d'étudiants (Student Brasserie)
- signed Jean Béraud and dated 1889 (lower left)
oil on panel
Maître Armand Dorville
Galerie Aveline, Paris (in 1986)
Paris, Musée Carnavelt, Jean Béraud, Peintre de la vie parisienne, 1936-1937, no. 29 (as Intérieur de café, au Quartier Latin)
Paris, Grand Palais, XIIIe Biennale internationale des antiquaires, 1986
Georges Poisson, La Vie Parisienne vue par les peintres, Paris, 1953, no. 51b, illustrated (detail)
Le Tabac, Paris, 1960, illustrated (detail) p. 57
"XIIIe Biennale," Le Figaro magazine, September 1986, illustrated p. 226
J. Faton, "Biennale, Peintures 19e et 20e," L'Estampille, October 1986, illustrated p. 60-1
Patrick Offenstadt, "Le Paris disparu de Jean Béraud," L'Oeil, March 1987, illustrated p. 34
Patrick Offenstadt, Jean Béraud 1849-1935, The Belle Époque: A Dream of Times Gone By, Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1999, p. 217, no. 267, illustrated
Abandoning his previous ambitions to become a lawyer, Jean Béraud joined Parisian artistic circles and studied portraiture with a leading artist of the third republic, Léon Bonnat. Many of Béraud's well-known contemporaries also passed through Bonnat's studio, including Gustave Caillebotte, Alfred Roll and Toulouse-Lautrec. While Béraud initially emulated his master's choice of subject and painted portraits of women and children as well as genre scenes, he was quickly drawn to representing modern urban life and developed an idiosyncratic style of tight draftsmanship, a light and sophisticated palette, and fine brushwork. The opulent spectacle of the newly created public spaces of Paris became Béraud's choice subject.
In his pursuit of a naturalistic image, Béraud was known to sit in his carriage and observe the scenes of the city with his sketchbook in hand, a habit shared by his contemporaries Jean-François Raffaëlli and Giusseppe De Nittis. In Brasserie d'étudiants, Béraud has turned his attention to the bohemian atmosphere of a café, frequented by fine arts students - recognizable by their black berets. He frequently painted in bars, restaurants and cafés, perhaps because he felt most comfortable sketching among these people who likely paid him no mind as he sat in the corner, sketching furiously. He described his very public process in an undated letter to an unknown correspondent, writing: "you have to vanquish your feelings of artistic modesty so you can work among people who take the most irritating kind of interest in what you're doing. If you cannot overcome your disgust, you will end up locking yourself away in your house, and painting a woman or a still life, like all your colleagues. For some artists, that was all they needed to produce a masterpiece. But I believe that today, we need something different" (as quoted in Offenstadt, p. 10).
Béraud managed to transcend the stratified social classes and maintain a perspective that is deeply inquisitive, voyeuristic, often humorous and always intelligent. He was intrigued by all aspects of la vie parisienne, and was one of its most scrupulous and devoted observers. He once wrote to fellow artist Alfred Roll "I find everything but Paris wearisome" (as quoted in Offenstadt, p. 14). His sophisticated eye was drawn to the characters that populated the bustling steets, cafés and theatres of Paris, including dancers, beggars, aristocrats, shopkeepers, theatre-goers, gamblers, fashionable beauties, children and students, to list a few. His affection for all of these people, at any time of day, granted him notoriety and popularity, and access to all levels of society. Marcel Proust described him as "a charming creature, sought in vain, by every social circle" (as quoted in Offenstadt, p. 7).
The candid view of students drinking, smoking and sleeping in Brasserie d'étudiants demonstrates Béraud's social fluidity. He was described as a perfect gentleman, impeccably dressed and above trends and fashion, likely allowing him to "blend in." One of the figures pictured is engaging with the artist and therefore confronting the viewer directly, removing his pipe from his mouth as if to speak. Almost everyone else slumbers, including the waitress who pauses for a cigarette. The ring marks on the table and the stacked coasters suggest that the patrons have been sitting there long enough for Béraud to capture their likenesses and the details of the scene.
This painting was formerly in the collection of Béraud's friend and patron, Armand Dorville. The Musée Carnavalet houses the most important collection of paintings by Jean Béraud as a result of Mr. Dorville's generous donation in 1944.