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Jean Beraud was an Impressionist painter. He was well-known for his Parisian scenes, depiction of the Café Concerts in Paris, and general scenes of Parisian life during the Belle Epoque. His father was a sculptor who moved his family to St. Petersburg, and was also working on the site of the Saint Isaac Cathedral. However, when Jean Beraud’s father died he was still very young. His mother moved back to Paris with her young children.
Beraud initially studied law, but then in 1872, he began to study art with the well-known history and portrait painter, Leon Bonnat. He took a studio in Montmartre, and worked from there. Beraud initially produced portraits, until 1876, when he had great success at the Salon with the depiction of a Parisian scene, entitled, “On the way back from the funeral.” It is said that its success was due to its originality. In the painting, he depicts people returning from a funeral to mundane everyday life, a man lights up a cigar, people begin chatting. Life goes on so to speak, even after a sad event.
A favorite subject of his was the depiction of the Café Concert, and the painting, entitled, “Valmy and Lea,” shows a scene from a Café Concert. The Café Concerts of Paris enabled a broad, urban audience to enjoy a singing, and stage routine, with food and drink. In “Valmy and Lea,” we see Valmy thrusting up his arms in a gesture to the audience, and his partner Lea doing the Can Can.
Beraud often avoided the Salon, and exhibited at the Circle of Artistic Union, as well as at the Society of French Watercolorists. In 1890, he participated in the creation of the National Society of Fine Arts, with Rodin.
He surprised the Salon of 1891, by exhibiting a painting entitled, “Mary Magdalene with the Pharisees.” In this painting he depicted biblical figures mingling with contemporary personalities. At the time this was considered to be a daring and controversial painting. After this, he produced a series of religious paintings.
A painting entitled “The Misdeed,” by Beraud, hangs in the National Gallery at London, and shows a woman crying into the cushion of a sofa. Her chagrin and distress seems to be due to a love affair. This type of scene was very popular with English and French painters of the nineteenth century. He continued to paint portraits throughout his whole career such as the portrait of the poet Armand Sylvestre which now hangs in the Musee des Augustins in Toulouse in France.
However, in general, Beraud remained faithful to his Paris scenes, such as the painting entitled, “A Windy Day on the Pont des Arts.” This depicts the Pont des Arts, a footbridge spanning the Seine, between the Institute of France, and the Cour Carre of the Louvre. In this painting, windswept Parisians are holding onto their hats, as they make their way across Paris. This painting now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Jean Beraud was a successful painter, and in 1894 he received the Legion of Honneur. In 1897 Marcel Proust asked him to be a witness at a duel between himself and the writer Jean Lorrain.
Beraud never married, Paris and his art were his only loves. He will always be fondly remembered as the painter of the Belle Epoque.
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