Lot 32
  • 32

Jean Béraud

Estimate
600,000 - 800,000 USD
Sold
953,000 USD
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Description

  • Jean Béraud
  • Leaving Montmartre Cemetery
  • signed Jean Béraud. and dated 1876. (lower right)
  • oil on canvas

Provenance

Charles Ferry (1889)
Sale: William Doyle Galleries, November 15, 1990, lot 55, illustrated
Property of a New York Private Collector (and sold, Sotheby's, New York, May 5, 1999, lot 306, illustrated)
Acquired at the above sale

Exhibited

Paris, Salon, 1876, no. 141
Paris, Exposition universelle, 1889
Paris, Exposition centennale de l'art français (1789 - 1889), Champ-de-Mars, 1889, no. 47

Literature

Patrick Offenstadt, "Le Paris disparu de Jean Béraud," L'Oeil, March 1987, p. 35
Patrick Offenstadt, Jean Béraud 1849-1935, The Belle Époque: A Dream of Times Gone By, Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1999, p. 246, no. 326, illustrated p. 247

Catalogue Note

Leaving Montmartre Cemetery shows a group of mourners walking along the Boulevard de Clichy. In 1876, when this canvas was shown at the Paris Salon, Béraud was only 27 and had been a painter for just three years. After the Franco-Prussian War he had abandoned plans to become a lawyer, and instead studied portraiture with a leading artist of the Third Republic, Léon Bonnat. Bonnat’s teaching studio was in the famous Villa des Arts complex in the Impasse Hélène (now rue Hégésippe-Moreau), one of the cluster of tiny streets backing onto Montmartre Cemetery. Thus, Béraud knew the area that he painted in Leaving Montmartre Cemetery well: his daily routine as an art student took him from Place Pigalle up the Boulevard de Clichy and alongside the cemetery. Many artists had studios in this area and in the narrow streets north and south of the Boulevard; others who painted the corner include Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1880, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), Camille Pissarro (1880, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute at Williamstown, Williamstown), Paul Signac (1886, Minneapolis Museum of Fine Arts) and Vincent van Gogh (1887, Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam).

Béraud had begun to branch out from portraiture around 1875, developing an interest in representing modern life in Paris. He showed scenes from Les Halles in 1879 and from the streets of central Montmatre in 1880. These paintings seem to reflect both the Realist and Naturalist tradition of Bonnat and Francois Bonvin, and the early work of Impressionist painters like Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas. The link between the two was Béraud’s friend Norbert Goeneutte, another young painter working in the Place Pigalle-Place de Clichy area, who had studied with Realist artist Isidore Pils. The year that Beraud exhibited Leaving Montmartre Cemetery at the Paris Salon, Goeneutte showed The Boulevard de Clichy under Snow (fig. 1, 1876, Tate Gallery, London), a view of the same spot from only a few yards farther north. The two friends apparently worked on their canvases together during the winter of 1875-76 and both paintings have sparse compositions, gray palettes and quick brushwork.

The two young artists may have been influenced by a series of watercolors painted by Isidore Pils in 1871 at the end of the Franco Prussian War. Looking from the windows of his apartment near Place Pigalle, Pils showed the exhaustive city as grey, rain-drenched, bleak, with minute black figures; the only bright spots were the posters on the sides of the buildings. From these intensely observed watercolors (some now in Paris, Musée Carnavalet), Béraud may have learned to capture life in Montmartre without picturesqueness or sentimentality. Leaving Montmartre Cemetery makes no attempt to prettify either the neighborhood or the figures. Pils’ curtailed palette of colors, grays, tans, black, ochre, white – may also have introduced Béraud and Goeneutte in their paintings of the Boulevard de Clichy.

The compositions of the two young artists’ paintings, however, suggest that they knew the early work of the Impressionist painters. Béraud may have had contact with Degas, Manet and Renoir through his friend Goeneutte, who formed one of a circle of writers and painters who met at the Café de la Nouvelle Athènes in Place Pigalle to discuss art. Goeneutte even posed several times for Renoir’s paintings of Montmartre. From the Impressionists, Béraud and Goeneutte seem to have acquired an interest in the asymmetrical compositions of Japanese prints. Both Leaving Montmartre Cemetery and Japanese ukioy-e feature large expanses, diagonal forms cutting across the canvas, and dark figures used as graphic interjections. The young artists may also have known Degas’ excitingly bare composition of 1875 showing the vicomte Lepic and his daughters, The Place de la Concorde (Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg).

Béraud and Goeneutte also echoed Impressionist theory in choosing to paint this newer district of Paris. Annexed to the city by Haussman, Montmartre in 1876 was in transition, halfway between a small town and a developing residential and commercial quarter. As shown in Leaving Montmartre Cemetery, the broad new Boulevard de Clichy had been cut through, with a sand-covered park in the median and a uniformed guard paid to patrol among its spindly trees. The boulevard was still lined with old two-story provincial buildings (at left in Béraud’s canvas) next to newer four storey ones. Montmartre was not a fashionable area, its dubious bars and entertainments seemed drab and sometimes menacing. But to young painters tired of the artificiality and pretension of academic art, Montmartre was an ideal subject, revealing the truth of modern life.

At first glance, the figures in Leaving Montmartre Cemetery appear elegant in their black morning garb; the men in top hats and women in deep lace veils. But closer examination reveals that these are not well-to-do people. The man at front right wears an ill-fitting coat, trousers with absurdly high cuffs, scuffed shoes; he lights a cigarette in the street in an uncouth way. The other tired mourners trudge along matter of factly, under a wet gray sky; it has apparently just stopped raining. Only a few touches lighten the painting: the color in the billboard at right, the brightness of the guard’s uniform, the pink bow in the hair of the fashionably dressed woman at the center – she and her fluffy white dog seem out of place in these surroundings. This strange juxtaposition of figures who meet in the same city space but do not connect suggests Gustave Caillebotte’s painting of a year later, Paris, A Rainy Day (1877, Art Institute of Chicago).

The vividness with which Béraud depicts each individual figure underlines one way in which his work differed from that of the Impressionists: he never fully adopted their abbreviated brushwork and forms. Béraud always remained interested in the specificity of detail; his figures never became anonymous design elements, but are shown as precisely observed individuals. As in so many of Béraud’s works, some of the figures in Leaving Montmartre Cemetery are probably portraits — most likely the artists, writers, and workers of Montmartre.

We are gareteful to Dr. Lucy MacClintock for providing this catalogue entry.  

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