I n this series of « My Art Review, La Gare Saint-Lazare », thus far I have written about the representation of the new era of modernité shown by the Impressionists Manet, Caillebotte, and Monet. I would be remise, however, to omit a lesser known Impressionists in this series who also painted the Gare Saint-Lazare from his unique persective: Jean Béraud.
Jean Béraud, who was already well known for his Parisian scenes, belonged to this young generation of painters being the closest to Manet. Like Caillebotte, Béraud chose to portray the Pont de l’Europe in La Place et le pont de l’Europe (1876, Private Collection). Béraud’s style, however, was more of an amusing, anecdotal portrayal of characters displayed in a fashion journal, as in a sketchbook of paper dolls which he then cut and pasted onto a background of the Gare. I love the stark contrast between his predominately black and white vetements, carriage and steel railings in the foreground with the softer yellows and blues in the background. Béraud, strangely, allows no shadowing of his characters.There is a little hint of the Saint-Lazare as he highlights the roof with sunlight and shows a white, billowy cloud from the train’s engine below, possibly taking passengers to Argenteuil! This is quite different than Caillebotte’s portrayal of the Pont de l’Europe in his muted blues and grays, [see « My Art Review Part 3].
Béraud’s characters appear legitimate : un jeune femme out for a stroll (notice the only red Béraud uses in this painting is for her big bow and the soldier’s pants in the background) ; the center couple where the husband is gazing at his wife ; a young mother taking her little fillette by the hand ; the buildings in the background illuminated by the afternoon sun.
This was my first introduction to Béraud’s work even though I have been researching the Gare Saint-Lazare for some time, and I am very drawn to this painting. It is as if time stood still for one brief moment, so that Béraud could capture the new Paris. Even though Béraud’s style here is quite different from Caillebotte or Monet’s, I feel it is very noteworthy and should be included in the study.
To all of my readers who love Impressionism, I am curious to hear your opinion of Béraud’s work.
Copyright 2014 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)