Emile Bernard French, 1868-1941


Emile Henri Bernard was a French artist, who remains deeply associated with the development of the Synthetic and Cloisonism movement, and the evolution of art practices at the end of the 19th century.
A poet and an essayist, he extensively contributed to the exploration of new theories in arts. The publication of his correspondences with Vincent Van Gogh and later Paul Cezanne helped to consolidate our knowledge and understanding of modern art.


Born in Lille, and raised by his grandmother who encouraged his love of art, Emile Bernard moved with his family to Paris in 1878 and joined the Atelier Cormon, where he met with fellow artists, Louis Anquetin and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec.
In 1886, he went to Pont-Aven where he met with Paul Gauguin for the first time and will begin developing the theories around the movement of Cloisonism, a style of painting defined by the purity of its compositions, and the use of bold forms separated by dark contours.
By 1886, Emile Bernard began a correspondence with Vincent Van Gogh, further exchanging on new ideas of composition, influenced by Japonism, Dutch Old Masters, to break away from the Impressionist technique and develop new forms of colours and styles to arouse new sets of feelings. Under the Dutch artist’s recommendations, he joined Gauguin in Pont-Aven in 1888.
However, in 1891, his close association with Paul Gauguin ended, as Emile Bernard was offended by the fact Gauguin was heralded as the main initiator and founder of Synthetism movement.

Emile Bernard, searching for both a new identity and new aesthetics ideas and having visited the Exposition Universelle in 1889, in Paris, where he became very interested in the Middle East region and decided to move to Egypt in 1893, where he settled for ten years.

Following his return to France in 1904, the artist, will stay in Aix-en-Provence and spent time working with Paul Cezanne. Following their meeting, they will engage with a correspondence, which will last until the Modern master’s passed away.

Upon his return to France, the artist will return to classical forms of painting, engaging with the Renaissance masters, and their aesthetics.

The artist will remain deeply associated with the emergence of new modern theories through his practice which furthered new researches on colours and compositions.



His works are included in the numerous museums around the world such as the Musee d’Orsay, Paris; Chicago Art Institute, Chicago; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Thyssen Bornemisza, Madrid; Indianapolis Art Museum, Indiana; Quimper Museum, Quimper.

  • Emile Bernard, La Moisson, 1890
    Emile Bernard
    La Moisson, 1890
    Oil on board
    55.4 x 38.5 cm
    21 ¾ x 15 inches
    Signature stamp lower right
  • Emile Bernard, Nature morte à la pastèque, 1895
    Emile Bernard
    Nature morte à la pastèque, 1895
    Oil on Canvas
    50 x 60 cm
    19 11/16 x 23 5/8 inches
    Signed and dated lower right