(b. 1849, St. Petersburg, d. 1935, Paris)

On the Boulevard

Oil on canvas, 35 x 25 cm
Musée Carnavalet, Paris

Working during La Belle Époque, Jean Béraud was a skilled documenter of Parisian daily life, which by then had become a spectacle of display. While his Impressionist contemporaries were moving out into the country to study the changing effects of the landscape during the late nineteenth century, Béraud remained rooted in Paris, studying the city life and its people.

After Baron Haussmann's reorganization and expansion of the Parisian boulevards during the mid-century, which created the Paris recognizable today, the great expanses of space constructed encouraged people to mill about the city, bringing every member of society out from inside their homes. The life of Paris was now found along the boulevards. No longer were residents traveling in a labyrinthine maze of small, medieval streets. Now fashionably dressed men and women spent their afternoons walking through the park, or strolled along the fashionable boulevards where they could now window shop and indulge their senses. Cafes became major gathering places for both the upper echelon of society and the modern artists seeking refuge from this display of pomp. Béraud had ample subject matter since Paris had become a world of “flaneurs,” or an idle stroller, and the leisurely activity of aimless wandering became a hobby for the most cultured of individuals. He began to document these, and many other images, during his prolific career.