Émile Henri Bernard was a French Post-Impressionist painter who had close artistic friendships with with Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Eugène Boch. Born in Lille, France in 1868, he moved to Paris to prusue an education at the Collège Sainte-Barbe in 1878. His most notable and accomplished works were done at a young age. He was a teacher at the École des Beaux-Arts before his death in 1941.
Note: The authenticity of this painting has been confirmed by Beatrice Recchi Altarriba of the Archives Emile Bernard and is included in her archive records.
1892 was a significant year for Bernard as he had broken with Gauguin in 1891 and as a result had been through a tumultuous artistic struggle. However, in 1892 he returned to the synthesist and flattened out approach to his Breton Symbolist work where his original instincts had led him. He leaves the Breton region in 1893.
Eglise et Ferme Bretonnes is a rare and superlative example of his flattened out, Japonaise approach to painting. He had been pre-occupied with medieval themes and religious subject matter as all the artists had who flocked to Pont-Aven and Brittany villages. Here we see him using highly avant-garde color choices and softened, expressive lines to depict the buildings and trees. This Symbolist approach explores the decorative element of the picture plane itself and yet, brings a deep, mystical quality to the quaint view as well. The windows and doors have an opaque and mysterious quality and the trees as well take on a haunting form. It is this interesting blend of decorative, folk and mysticism that makes this movement still so motivating, modern and moving today.
Emil Bernard moved on artistically after 1893 and works prior from this time are highly desirable. He had strong friendships with Toulouse- Lautrec, Louis Anquetin and Van Gogh and his work from these early years melds the aesthetics of so many influences and significant painters of this time. From early on though, Bernard had a strong personality as well and had no qualms with differing from his colleagues on artistic fronts.
Ambrose Vollard, Paris
Galerie L. G. Baugin, Paris
Collection of Dr. Abraham & Carolyn Schlossman
Jean-Jacques Luthi, Emile Bernard, Catalogue Raisonne de L’Oeuvre Peint, Paris, 1892 no.325, illus. p. 50