Scenes of daily life painted by Jean Beraud reveal interest in Naturalism. Such diverse themes as crowds observing the funeral of Victor Hugo or studies of the interior of a Parisian Bank Apartment reflect aspects of French society during the Third Republic. Beraud was born of wealthy French parents in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where his father’s career as a sculptor introduced him to the arts at early age. After his father’s death the family moved to Paris (1853). Beraud thus received his by education at the Lycée Bonaparte. Studious and talented, he finished his degree in law before the Franco-Prussian War. During the siege of Paris he served in the army’s Garde mobile de la Seine. It was not until after the war that Beraud decided to become a portrait artist. He entered the studio of Leon Bonnat (one of the leading painters of the Third Republic) and received training as a portraitist for the next two years. The six entries he exhibited at the 1873 Salon document his preference for portraits during the early part of his career making art, print and posters.
He entered the official Salons regularly until 1889, receiving a Third-class medal in 1882 and a second-class medal 1883. The Late 1870s, however, show a change in Beraud's focus, for he began recording scenes from Les Halles (1879 Salon) or the streets Montmartre (1880 Salon). During the mid-1880s he completed two art, prints and posters that reveal social consciousness a quality inherent in some aspects of Naturalist movement. Les Fous (1885 Salon) and La Salle des filles au depot (1886 Salon) are compositions that graphically convey the personality of his figures as well as his adeptness at capturing anecdotal gestures. His depiction of a young prostitute yawning or another tying her shoe demonstrates his indebtedness to similar works by Degas.
In addition, Beraud was highly successful at creating art, prints and posters of the fashionable Parisian woman of the 1890s. These compositions convey a stereotype of femininity, but the French and Russian aristocracies who were his clients were more than satisfied with his superficial representations of reality. Although he received the Legion d’honneur in 1887 and a gold medal at the Paris Fair in 1889, Beraud’s later work was less serious than the Naturalist themes that he completed during his middle years. After his death, the Societe’ Nationale des Beaux-Arts honored his work with a retrospective exhibition at the 1936 Salon; a second exhibition was also held that year at the Musee Carnavalet, Paris.