Lot 155
  • 155

Émile Bernard

400,000 - 600,000 USD
301,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Émile Bernard

  • Signed Emile Bernard (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas laid down on board


Collection Altaribba, Paris
Private Collection since circa 1960s


Bretagne, Musée National d'Histoire et d'Art, 1951


Jean-Jacques Luthi, Emile Bernard, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1982, no. 337, illustrated p. 53

Catalogue Note

Bernard's friendship with Gauguin led to the genesis of the Pont-Aven school of painting in 1888.  Several years later in 1891, Bernard ventured away from his collaborations with Gauguin and sought to explore and define his singular style of Symbolism. "In February of 1891, Bernard broke with Gauguin and embarked upon his lifelong crusade to claim primacy in the invention of Pictorial Symbolism.... With this self-imposed exile, Bernard effectively removed himself both physically and psychologically from the centre of the French avant-garde. His art became increasingly committed to a noble form of representation dependent upon the examples of great masters of the Renaissance..." (Emile Bernard, 1868-1941: A Pioneer of Modern Art (exhibition catalogue), Stadtische Kunstalle, Manheim, 1990, p. 13).

The current work is a brilliantly refined example of Bernard's mastery of the Symbolist interpretation and of the distinguishing characteristics of Bernard's work in contrast to Gauguin's. Bernard executed a series of works centered around Breton women and often had his sister, Madeleine Bernard, model in Breton fashion (see fig. 1). As he looked back on these early, tumultuous and inspirational first years of his artistic career, Bernard once wrote, "I would dream of creating a hieratic style looking beyond modernity and present-day reality for its methods and inspiration, I needed to go back to the primitives: adopt a very abbreviated technique, use line solely in order to determine form and colour, solely to determine each state. In a word, what I wanted to do was create a style for our age" (quoted in ibid., p. 11).

Fig. 1 Madeleine Bernard in Breton Costume in Pont-Aven, photograph, 1888, Archives Musées Nationaux, Paris