Artists & Designers

Émile Bernard (1868-1941)

Émile Bernard was born in Lille, France, but moved with his family to the Paris suburb of Asnières in 1881. In 1884, he enrolled in the atelier of the artist Ferdinand Cormon, an École des Beaux-Arts professor. At Cormon’s studio, Bernard met Louis Anquetin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vincent van Gogh, all young artists struggling to define their personal artistic identities. Van Gogh and Bernard became fast friends and corresponded regularly after Cormon expelled Bernard for insubordinate behavior. In his letters, Van Gogh offered the younger artist advice and criticism and shared his thoughts on the paintings he was working on at the moment. After Van Gogh’s death, Bernard organized the first retrospective of his friend’s work and began editing his many letters. After leaving Cormon’s studio, Bernard traveled through Normandy and Brittany, where he met Paul Gauguin for the first time. The two artists reconnected in 1888 and began a fruitful collaboration that lasted until 1891. Bernard, like Gauguin and many other late 19th-century artists, was drawn to Brittany for its isolation and seemingly authentic vision of French rural culture. The painting _Harvest near the Seaside _depicts Saint-Briac, a town Bernard first visited in 1886 and summered in until his departure for Egypt in 1893. The artist observed with accuracy the agricultural developments in Brittany, which by this date included women laboring in the fields. He rejected a picturesque treatment of the scene and emphasized the rhythmic pattern of forms across the surface. Bernard’s handling underscores the pictorial integration of harvesters and landscape, representing a symbiotic relationship between them.

Excerpt from

Dorothy Kosinski, Van Gogh's Sheaves of Wheat (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 2006), 102.

Web Resources

  • Musée d'Orsay, Paris
    View Bernard's 1891 Harvest by the Sea__.

  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
    Check out this self-portrait of Paul Gauguin dressed as Jean Valjean from Les Misérables with a self-portrait of Émile Bernard in the background.

  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
    Check out this self-portrait of Émile Bernard with a self-portrait of Paul Gauguin in the background.