Saturday 17 December 2011

Émile Bernard - part 1

Émile Bernard c1892

This is part 1 of a 2-part post on the works of French artist Émile Bernard (1868 – 1941). Bernard was a Post-Impressionist painter who had artistic friendships with Van Gogh, Gauguin and Eugene Boch, and at a later time, Cézanne. Most of his notable work was accomplished at a young age, in the years 1886 to 1897. He is also associated with Cloisonnism and Synthetism, two late 19th century art movements.

Bernard was born in Lille, France, in 1868. The family moved to Paris in 1878 and he began his studies at École des Arts Décoratifs. In 1884 he joined the Atelier Cormon where he experimented with Impressionism and Pointillism, and befriended fellow artists Louis Anquetin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. After being suspended from the École sea Beaux-Arts for "showing expressive tendencies in his paintings", he toured Brittany on foot, where he was much taken by the tradition and landscape.

In August 1886, Bernard met Gauguin in Pont-Aven. In this brief meeting they exchanged little about art, but looked forward to meeting again. Bernard said, looking back at that time, that "my own talent was already fully developed." He believed his style did play a considerable part in the development of Gauguin's mature style. Bernard spent September 1887 at the coast, where he painted "La Grand-mère", a portrait of his grandmother.

1887 La Grand-mère 
oil on canvas

He continued talking with other painters and started saying good things about Gauguin. Bernard went back to Paris, met with Van Gogh, who as we already stated was impressed by his work, found a restaurant to show the work alongside Van Gogh, Anquetin, and Lautrec’s work at the Avenue Clichy. Van Gogh, called the group the School of Petit-Boulevard. One year later, Bernard set out for Pont-Aven by foot and saw Gauguin. Their friendship and artistic relationship grew strong quickly. By this time Bernard had developed many theories about his artwork and what he wanted it to be. He stated that he had “a desire to [find] an art that would be of the most extreme simplicity and that would be accessible to all, so as not to practice its individuality, but collectively…” Gauguin was impressed by Bernard’s ability to verbalise his ideas. In 1891 he joined a group of Symbolist painters that included Odilon Redon and Ferdinand Hodler. In 1893 he started travelling, to Egypt, Spain and Italy and after that his style became more eclectic. He returned to Paris in 1904 and died there in 1941.

1888 Self-Portrait with portrait of Paul Gauguin, 
dedicated to Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh had asked Bernard for a portrait of Gauguin, but Bernard didn't feel able to create one as Gauguin was twenty years older and already famous at this time. In this self-portrait he put a small portrait of Gauguin in the background. Van Gogh however was very fond of Bernard's painting, for its simplicity, and compared it to "a genuine Manet." Gauguin subsequently painted "to compensate," a self-portrait "with portrait of Bernard" in the same year (below:)

1888 Self-portrait (in the role of 'Les Misérables' protagonist Jean Valjean) with Émile Bernard portrait in the background, for Vincent
oil on canvas

1886 Boy Sitting in the Grass 
oil on canvas

1886 Orchard at Pont-Aven 
oil on panel

1886 The Entrance to Asnieres, the Hay-wagon 
oil on canvas

1886 Woman at Saint-Briac 
oil on canvas

1887 Iron Bridges at Asnières 
oil on canvas 
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

1887 Still Life with Flowers

1887 Young Woman in Kimono, Reading 
oil on paper

1888 Buckwheat Harvesters at Pont-Aven 
oil on canvas

1888 Madeleine in the Bois d'Amour 
oil on canvas

1888 Portrait de Madame Schuffenecker  
oil on canvas

1888 The Harvest

1888 Yellow Tree 
oil on canvas

c1888-1901 Breton Women in the Meadow

Gaugin took the above painting 'Breton Women in the Meadow" with him when he joined Vincent Van Gogh in Arles, in Ocotber 1888. Vincent, being immediately fond of this radical new style, made the copy (below), just to notify his brother Theo of the artist that had impressed him so much:

1889 Breton Peasants 
oil on canvas

1889 Portrait of a Boy in Hat

1890 Boats at Pont-Aven 
oil on canvas

c1890 Still Life with Lemons and Goblet 
oil on canvas

1891 Still Life with Pears on a White Tablecloth 
oil on canvas


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