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    Jean Béraud (French, 1849-1935)
    Sur les Champs Élysées, 1892
    Oil on canvas
    25-1/2 x 32 inches (64.8 x 81.3 cm)
    Signed and dated lower right: Jean Béraud / 1892


    Madame P.;
    Hotel Drouot, Paris, March 28, 1927, lot 8 (as L'Avenue des Champs-Élysées en 1892);
    M. Allard;
    Hammer Galleries, New York, 1969 (as Avenue du bois de Boulogne);
    H. Terry-Engell Gallery, London, 1973;
    Sotheby's, New York, October 30, 1980, lot 89 (as On the Champs-Élysées);
    Private collection, Louisiana.

    Hammer Galleries, New York, "The Elegant Epoch," 1969 (as Avenue du bois de Boulogne).

    The Elegant Epoch, exhibition catalogue, Hammer Galleries, New York, 1969, no. 11, illustrated;
    P. Offenstadt, Jean Béraud, 1849-1935: The Belle Époque: A Dream of Times Gone By, Catalogue Raisonné, Paris, 1999, no. 125, p. 140, illustrated.

    In the late nineteenth century, few painters captured the quintessential spirit of Belle Epoque Paris as astutely as the urbane and sophisticated Jean Béraud. Best known for his fashionable scenes of Parisian everyday life at the fin-de-siècle, Béraud achieved a style that was a unique blend of the academic traditions of the Salon and the modern tenets of Impressionism.

    Born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Jean Béraud's family moved to Paris after the death of his father. The young artist began his formal artistic training there in the studio of Leon Bonnat, and first exhibited his works at the Salon in 1872. He exhibited with the Society of French Watercolorists at the World's Fair, Exposition Universelle, in Paris in 1889, and would receive the Legion of Honor in 1894.

    Béraud was intrigued by all aspects of Parisian life, and became its scrupulous and devoted observer. Much like the Impressionists who were his contemporaries, Béraud held a fascination with capturing fleeting moments in time, his primary subjects being pictorial snapshots of modern life in the city. He and other painters during this period strove to replicate the randomness of a casual observer's glimpse at reality, evoking the somewhat new experience of urban life in which an individual could be an unseen spectator as he or she traversed the boulevards of the city.

    Well-liked by his peers for his charm and wit and admired by the public for his pleasing scenes, Béraud was a unique character on the Parisian scene. The artist was known to travel around the French capital in a mobile studio, which was a converted carriage designed specifically for the purpose of observing city life first hand, much in the way that Monet and Daubigny would paint from boats turned into floating studios. The inspiration for the present work may well have come as Béraud toured the Paris streets in this way.

    In this work, Béraud's fashionably dressed figures stroll and ride in carriages down the Champs Elysées under a glowing late afternoon sky, meandering and interacting with one another down the boulevard as if being captured unaware in a candid snapshot. This frozen glimpse in time reflects a studied spontaneity of composition owing to Béraud's fascination with the emerging field of photography, an interest shared by his friend Edgar Degas. Indeed, in this work, one may note the likely influence of Degas, who through his studies of photography mastered portraying the moving horse, a subject that had always presented a challenge to artists. Degas's preoccupation with this task attracted him to the stop-action images of the British photographer Edward Muybridge, which were reproduced in 1878 and featured horses in various states of a gallop. Much like Degas, in Sur les Champs Élysées, Béraud has skillfully and realistically depicted his horses in various states of movement, (as well as a delightfully sprinting dog), furthering the photographic aspect of the work.

    The present work demonstrates the bird's-eye viewpoint, arbitrary framing, light-filled palette, and deliberately unbalanced composition that were all hallmarks of the Impressionist movement. But Béraud's work is executed in a much more traditional manner, with sharp focus and vivid clarity. As such, Béraud was among a critically accepted group of artists, along with Bastien-Lepage and others, who contrasted with the original Impressionists by employing a more academic and palatable version of the movement, which appealed to critics. While their cohorts including Manet, Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Caillebotte employed broken brushwork, gritty subjects, and a general movement toward modernity, Béraud and his ilk employed a more static and sedate approach, retaining individual facial expressions, keen detail, polite subject matter, and linear forms. As noted by American historian C.H. Stranahan, these painters had "a nicety of finish, a delicacy of treatment wholly unknown to the [impressionists], which they carry out under the impressionists' doctrine of light and color." (A History of French Painting, New York, 1888, p. 463).

    As Edmond Duranty noted, Béraud's views of fin-de-siècle Paris held a historic significance whose duration would prove the test of time: "How valuable will they be, these animated Parisian streets of...Béraud, in two or three hundred years from now?" (Gazette de Beaux-Arts, 1877). To be sure, ranking among the artist's masterworks, Sur les Champs Élysées epitomized for a nineteenth century audience as well as it does today the refined tastes, picturesque sights, and urban sophistication of Belle Epoque Paris.

    Condition Report*: Unlined canvas; small area of cupping due to pressure from the reverse at left bottom edge; minor frame wear; areas of white in foreground and approx. 2 inch horizontal line at upper center edge as well as approx. 1.5 inch vertical line below tree foilage fluoresce under UV light; under UV light, there appears to be an approx. 3/4 inch spot of inpaint between trees at center left and touches of inpaint along top edge to address frame wear; inpaint to foremost horse's ears and directly above; an approx. 2 inch horizontal area fluoresces that appears to be covering a second signature by the artist. Framed Dimensions 35 X 41 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2016
    7th Wednesday
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