Cloisonnist, Symbolist, & Post-Impressionist Painter – Emile Bernard

Born on April 28, 1868, in Lille, ‘Post-Impressionist’ painter Emile Henri Bernard or simply Emile Bernard is better known as the founder of ‘Cloisonnism.’ Despite his father’s opposition of his artistic interests, Emile’s grandmother’s support helped him enroll at the École des Arts Décoratifs. Bernards moved to Paris in 1878, where Emile attended the Collège Sainte-Barbe. In 1884, Emile met French fellow painters Louis Anquetin and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, during his stint at the Atelier Cormon. While the artist had just begun to try his hands at ‘Impressionism’ and ‘Pointillism,’ he soon was expelled from the École des Beaux-Arts for “showing expressive tendencies in his paintings.”

Emily Bernard then moved to Brittany in 1886, where Gothic architecture and carved Breton Calvary stunned him. In August same year, he met the French painter Paul Gauguin at Pont-Aven. Bernard went back to Paris, where he met the Dutch painter Van Gogh, who by now was impressed with the artist’s early talent. Bernard, at a very young age, defined his technique and style, called the ‘Cloisonnism,’ characterized by bold forms & colors with dark contours. Along with Anquetin and Lautrec, Bernard displayed their paintings at the Avenue Clichy. Van Gogh called this trio of artists “the School of Petit-Boulevard.”

After spending a year at Paris, Bernard went back to Pont-Aven to meet Gauguin. While discussing art works and art theories, they worked together closely, though for a brief period. As Van Gogh passed away, Gauguin stole public attention as the originator of ‘Symbolism,’ without giving Bernard his due credit. This led to Bernard confronting Gauguin and bitterness thereafter.

Bernard continued doing exceptional ‘Cloisonnist’ works and exhibited in 1887 at the Café Volpini, followed by Indépendants & Barc de Boutteville in 1891, and the Salon de la Rose Croix, in 1893. Bernard’s magnum opuses are “La Grandmère” (1887), his grandmother’s portrait, and “Self Portrait.” He inspired many junior and struggling artists, particularly Ivan Agueli, a Swedish painter.

Scared of being recruited in the military, Bernard, with the financial help of the Count of Rochefoucauld, moved to Egypt, in 1893. Here, he married and stayed for a decade. On his return to Paris in 1904, he met Cezanne and stayed in Tonnerre. Bernard finally settled in Pont-Aven in 1939, but soon passed away on April 16, 1941, at the age of seventy-three.

Emile Bernard painted mythology, religion, genre, portraits, nudes, landscapes, urban landscapes, still life, gouache, and watercolors, diversifying into sculptures too. The artist’s lesser-known side was his contributions to the literary field, such as scripting for plays, poetry, and writing articles on art for the era he was a part of and contributed to.