Artist Spotlight: Louis Béroud

Louis Béroud

You’ve probably heard of French artist Louis Béroud, though maybe not because of his work; his name isn’t mentioned among the great painters of the late 19th century. His paintings –often of other painters practicing in the Musée du Louvre or of the grand space itself– are certainly beautiful, rich in detail, and an interesting mixture of late Realism with some early Impressionist touches, a direct result of the era in which he painted. Even still, you might not have even been able to identify one of his paintings just by sight, the way you can with, say, a Monet, and his pieces don’t make the headlines if they’re brought to auction. (For fun, I checked Sotheby’s auction results archive. From 1990 to present, only three Bérouds have been sold, either at auction or in private sale, for an average hammer price of $42k. For contrast, a pair of chairs sold for nearly as much at the end of February.)

Louis Béroud

But if you’ve ever heard of the (entirely true) theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, then you’re familiar with Béroud. For it was Béroud who, on the morning of August 22, 1911, alerted the guard that La Jaconde was missing. Béroud had arrived at the museum with his easel and paintbox, ready to continue work on a study of the Mona Lisa, only to find an empty space on the wall of the Salon Carré where painting should have hung. When he informed a guard, he was told the painting was likely upstairs being photographed or for some light frame preservation. Béroud waited several hours but at 11am, having grown impatient, suggested the guard check upstairs in the photography department himself. It was only then that the museum realized what had happened. It would be two and a half years, with a wild goose chase across France and Italy, fake identities, and forgeries sold and shipping across the Atlantic, before Mona was returned to her rightful place at the Louvre. This book does a far better job of explaining everything than I just attempted, and reads like fiction.

Louis Béroud

Because of his connection to what is perhaps the most famous heist in history, little focus has been paid to Béroud’s work as a painter over the years, which is a shame. In fact, his one paragraph Wikipedia entry focuses entirely on the Mona Lisa, offering no other biographical details. Several of his paintings currently hang in the Musée Carnavalet and the Louvre, though, and I’ll make it a priority to track them down next time.

Louis Béroud

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March 5, 2015 / art / photo / LEAVE A COMMENT / 14

14 comments

  • thanks. I learn something new every time I come here :) xoxo

    • Ha, thanks, P! I try to be informative sometimes to balance out the frivolity :) xo

  • Je ne connaissez pas l’histoire ni les ouvres de Louis Béroud. J’adore cette style, la quantité des détails est impressionnant. Maintenant, grâce à toi je connais un peu son travail. C’est dommage que soit connue que à travers de Mona Lisa. La vie parfois est comme ça, un peu injuste !
    Quand j’habité à Madrid j’adoré aller toute seule au Musée del Prado. J’adoré visité surtout les sales des artistes impressionnistes. Le détails sont incroyables. De nos jours j’ai beaucoup d’admiration par Antonio Lopez, un artiste espagnol qui pain comme personne les rues de Madrid.
    Bon weekend sous la neige ma belle ! Ici, ils annonce 19° pour samedi, on ira à la plage ;) xx

    • Je ne connais pas Antonio Lopez, mais je vais rechercher son art. Tu et moi, nous sommes semblables, parce que j’aime aller toute seule aux musées, aussi. Et les salles des artistes impressionnistes…ce sont mon style préféré. C’est la plus sublime chose, un jour seule avec Monet, Degas, Renoir, et, maintenant, Béroud!
      J’espere que tu as eu un bon weekend à la plage! xoxo

  • wow, i was so captivated by this story. his paintings are almost a little bit heartbreaking – he absolutely loved everything about art, one can easily see that. i can’t believe the wikipedia, i think you need to go in there and edit that page! that last painting is gorgeous – actually i really do think they are all amazing. all that detail. xo

    • I wish I could find more about him! This might be a case for the library, or pouring through the Impressionist art books I have to see if I can dig up any more information on him. Poor guy, I want to be his champion now! Haha. His paintings are just so lovely and so good. xo

  • this story *does* read like fiction – fascinating! it’s a shame though that beroud is known more for his discovery than for his work because it really is stunning in all it’s detail and late 19th century charm.

    so cool too that artists could just set up their easels in front of the exhibits to do studies. i mean, i guess some people still do camp out on benches with the sketch pads and all, but that second piece above with the art student? i’ve never seen that sort of thing IRL. so lovely.

    • It’s so easy for me to romanticize that era, because all of that art, the charm, the style (to quote Midnight In Paris: “the whole sensibility, the kiosks, the streetlamps…”) just BEGS to be romanticized. Béroud really epitomizes the entire mood. I fell in love with him pretty quickly.

      This post I wrote a few years ago, on the École du Louvre, is just like that painting! Students really do set up with easels in the galleries. It happens at my local museum, too! xo

  • Fascinating. I have probably seen some of his paintings at the Carnavalet and/or at the Louvre but didn’t remember his name nor art. I especially love the second one (I have always LOVED seeing students painting in museums).

    • I’m making it a point to visit the Carnavalet next time; I feel like it will be easier to navigate and seek out the “Béroud in the haystacks,” such as it is, than the Louvre. Plus, I’ve never been!
      I linked to two old posts of mine on students painting in museums. I’m happy someone else loves it as much as I do, Charlotte! xo

  • Love this art history lesson and also his pieces, particularly the last few you featured. Isn’t that life through rose-tinted glasses right there?

    • Sometimes I regret my undergraduate degree, and wish I’d majored in French or Art History (or, truthfully, a combination of both). Sigh. I make do by sharing those interests on here, though! And, happily, you find it interesting :) xo

  • Wow, what an interesting story…and the paintings are absolutely beautiful!

    • Aren’t they, Valerie? It just makes me wonder how many other smaller, unknown artists of the same time there are whose work we never see. xo