Émile Bernard ( French, 1868 - 1941 )
The Salon is the culminating masterpiece of a five-year period that Émile Bernard dedicated to exploring the modern subject of brothels through drawings, paintings, and even poetry. It depicts the sitting room of a brothel where five women in various states of undress await clients. Neither moralizing nor salacious, Bernard presents the mundane boredom of prostitutes who pass time by playing cards, napping, or drinking. The women’s bleak situation is emphasized by Bernard’s garish palette of contrasting reds and greens, as well as his semi-abstract style characterized by simplified forms, broad planes of color, and black contours. Dubbed cloisonnism, the aesthetic was inspired by several sources, including Paul Cézanne’s paintings, French folk prints, medieval enamels and stained glass, and Japanese woodblock prints.
Nicole Myers, DMA label copy, 2018.