Painted in 1887, Les Faneuses dans un pré is a key work that attests to the perspicacity and daring of Emile Bernard’s vision.
In 1886, having been dismissed from Ferdinand Cormon’s studio where Anquetin and Toulouse-Lautrec were his friends, Bernard discovered Brittany, sleeping in barns and sharing the meals of the farmers. That year, the eighth and last Impressionist Exhibition was on show as were exhibitions of Seurat’s and Signac’s work presented in October in Paris. However, Bernard’s study of divisionist paintings left him dissatisfied: if the method was interesting for its vibrant treatment of colour, it also had the effect of stripping colour down. Bernard began the search for another, different procedure.
In March 1887, Bernard decided to abandon Neo-impressionism for a new style where his choice of chromatic simplification in conjunction with an intensification of colour meant that ideas dominated form. The notion of Cloisonism as a method and Symbolism as a theme began to take form. In the Spring of the same year, Bernard left Brittany; in July he was in Pont-Aven. He was not close to Gauguin at that time as the latter was in Martinique, working on Synthetism which would see the day in 1888, the year when Bernard and Gauguin stayed at the Gloanec guest house during a period of intense and fruitful collaboration. Sérusier’s Talisman which would become a Nabis icon was soon to come.
In 1887, at the period when he painted Les Faneuses dans un pré, Bernard met frequently with Van Gogh. The two painters met at Père Tanguy’s boutique where Bernard was in the habit of leaving his works since 1886. The painting Les Faneuses dans un pré is covered with rapid brushstrokes which give prominence to the chromatic audacity of remarkable maturity. At a time of great agitation, in the archaic landscape of a thousand-year-old Brittany, the symbiosis of man and earth can be found in the unprecedented conjunction of brushstroke and colour.
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