- Jean Béraud
- La réception
- signed Jean Béraud (lower right)
- oil on canvas
- 10 1/2 by 13 7/8 in.
- 26.6 by 35.2 cm
Sale: William Doyle Galleries, New York, November 6, 1996, lot 13, illustrated
Jean-François Heim, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Indeed, in the catalogue for the recent exhibition, Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity, Philippe Thiébaut and Gloria Groom discuss just how infrequently Béraud’s contemporaries, the Impressionists, painted men's black-and-white evening costume, perhaps due to its static appearance. In the late nineteenth century, the Parisian man was limited to two changes of clothes: from daytime to evening outfits, with an overall emphasis on dark colors (Philippe Thiébaut, “An Ideal of Virile Urbanity,” p. 137, 142; Gloria Groom, “Spaces of Modernity,” p. 183 in Impressionism, Fashion, Modernity, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, 2012). When considering the proper dress for men, an 1870s Paris guidebook noted while “all of coquetry’s light is on Woman,” [sic] man is “the lining of the jewelry box against which the eternal diamond stands out…. He allows her to sing the symphony of white, pink, and green, as a solo” (Guide sentimental de l’étranger dans Paris, pp. 83-4 as quoted in Thiébaut, p. 137). Fittingly, in the present work, pops of bright color come from the floral hues of the women’s gowns as they stand in a receiving line. The uniformity of men’s costume demanded that artists like Béraud use gesture or pose to suggest individual personality: hands clad in white gloves punctuate a conversation, while a slouched shoulder suggests a fatigue with the topic at hand (Thiébaut p. 140). The men are on unselfconscious display just as they are in the series of works Béraud painted of male-only private clubs. Given contemporary fashion’s challenges for the artist, the wit and charm of La Réception is a particular testament to Béraud’s skill.