(b Paris, Aug 20, 1902; d Paris, Feb 12, 1949).
French painter and stage designer. He attended the Académie Ranson from 1920 (under Vuillard and Denis) and first exhibited at the Galerie Druet in 1924, as part of the group orchestrated by the critic Waldemar George. These ‘Neo-Romantics’ or ‘Neo-Humanists’ included Eugene Berman and Pavel Tchelitchew; at this point their eclectic, self-consciously traditional art offered an important alternative to modernism. Pittura Metafisica interiors provided one exemplar, yet Bérard’s dark-toned moody portraits, such as Pierre Colle (1931; priv. col., see 1983 exh. cat., p. 18), also suggest the directness of 17th-century realism, and in 1934 he painted a Homage to Le Nain.
In the Paris of the late 1920s, Bérard emerged as a promising young realist painter. His masterpiece, On the Beach (1933; New York, MOMA), presents a disturbing double self-portrait against a hallucinatory backdrop, infusing the real with morbid or perverse overtones; in this, Bérard was the precursor of Balthus, who in the mid-1930s inherited Bérard’s role and creative environment. In ...