Émile Bernard: The Pioneering Artist’s Influence on Modern Art Movements

Published Categorized as Artists

When I first came across Émile Bernard’s work, I was struck by his unique style. This post-Impressionist painter, who was a key player in the late 19th-century art scene, had a knack for blending color and form in a way that was ahead of his time.

Born in 1868, Bernard’s journey into the art world was anything but ordinary. He rubbed shoulders with the likes of Van Gogh and Gauguin, and his influence on modern art can’t be overstated. In this article, we’ll delve into the life and works of this remarkable artist.

From his early beginnings to his innovative techniques, Bernard’s story is one that’s sure to inspire. Whether you’re an art enthusiast or a casual observer, there’s something to learn from his artistic journey. Stay tuned as we unravel the enigma that is Émile Bernard.

Early Life and Influences

Delving into the early life of Émile Bernard, we find an artist who was immersed in the art world from a young age. Born in Lille, France, in 1868, Bernard had an innate interest in creativity that was apparent to everyone around him. Despite having traditional schooling, he found solace in the world of art. I’ll take you back to the times when Bernard’s engagement with art began.

At just 16 years old, he enrolled at the École des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. While here, he began exploring the challenges and nuances of art. Bernard developed a deeper understanding of the concepts and techniques that would later become the foundation for his innovative creations.

In the vibrant Parisian art scene, Bernard met many influential artists. During this period, he encountered prominent artists such as Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh, who went on to greatly influence his work. He was one of the few lucky artists who had the opportunity to meet and learn directly from such renowned figures. Interestingly, it wasn’t just a one-way street – Bernard also had a significant impact on their artistic journeys.

It’s key to note that the initial inspiration for his diverse and experimental style can be traced back to his encounters with these greats of the art world. Not only did he learn from them, but Bernard also absorbed the Symbolist and the Neo-Impressionist movements, incorporating them into his own unique art style. Consequently, Bernard became a trailblazer in his own right, pushing boundaries and setting new standards in creativity.

A crucial source of influence was Bernard’s travel experiences. He travelled broadly in Europe and the Middle East, letting his experiences shape his artistic vision. The cultural richness he encountered during these travels introduced new themes and colours into his work. It can be said with confidence that his exposure to diverse cultures significantly influenced his bold and vivid art style.

Relationships with Van Gogh and Gauguin

My close relationships with fellow artists, particularly those of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, certainly played a pivotal role in my artistic journey. Van Gogh and I first crossed paths in Paris while frequenting the same artsy circles. His work had an intensity that initially struck me as somewhat odd, but I quickly grew to appreciate its boldness and energy. I guess it’s true what they say – beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder!

It was during this time I developed a bond with Gauguin as well. We enjoyed a special bond, often spending hours discussing the role of subjectivity and symbolism in the arts, topics that would later become instrumental in my pursuit of the Symbolist and Neo-Impressionist movements.

A Combined Creative Force

My exchange of ideas with these phenomenal artists led to several instances of collaborative work. One of the most notable instances was The Volpini Exhibition in 1889, where Gauguin and I exhibited our works together. Our shared vision, the bold use of color and emphasis on flat surfaces, created an aesthetic that set us apart from the likes of other contemporary works.

The Impact of These Relationships

Unquestionably, my close association with Van Gogh and Gauguin greatly influenced my direction in art. They introduced me to a world of new color schemes and painting techniques, enhancing my artistic savvy. Engaging creatively with these artists challenged my perspectives and surged my desire to push artistic boundaries. The depth of these relationships isn’t just a significant part of my personal journey but also an integral aspect of the artistic exchange that occurred during the post-Impressionist era.

Artistic Style and Techniques

As we delve further into Émile Bernard’s artistic journey, one can’t overlook the distinctive style and techniques that he employed. His work is often noted for its innovative use of color, bold forms, and unique aesthetic. Drawing inspiration from his interactions with standout artists of the era, particularly Van Gogh and Gauguin, I’ll tackle the signature aspects that set Bernard’s artistry apart.

It was Van Gogh’s technique of laying thick layers of paint on the canvas that sparked a change in Bernard’s method. Adopting this technique, he traded his previously thin, sketch-style for a more unfiltered and raw appeal. After all, the use of broad, flowing strokes and a vivid palette, commonly associated with the post-Impressionistic style, became a noteworthy feature of Bernard’s own work.

However, his style did not stay static. Upon collaborating with Gauguin, he ventured into the realm of Cloisonnism. This style, characterized by flat areas of color enclosed by dark contours, resulted in a powerful visual effect. Cloisonnism became a revolutionary movement of that time, encouraging artists to embrace abstract symbolism over the pursuit of real-life depiction.

One might argue that Bernard’s style was not just about technique but also a result of his broader philosophical beliefs. He often incorporated religious and philosophical themes into his work, echoes of which could be seen in the inclusion of mystical and symbolic elements in his compositions. This style divergence is particularly evident in his later works, when he moved away from the innovative color schemes and started focusing on spirituality and abstraction.

Tracing Bernard’s style changes reveals more than just the progression of a single artist – it exposes the metamorphosis of an entire artistic era. The techniques he adopted and developed spanned across the spectrum from Impressionism to Symbolism, reflecting the evolving landscape of art at the end of the 19th Century. Émile Bernard’s artistic style and techniques embody a significant chapter in the narration of post-Impressionist art history.

Impact on Modern Art

Émile Bernard had a profound impact on modern art. His unique blend of post-Impressionism and Symbolism bridged the gap between these artistic movements, blazing a trail for future artists. His innovative use of color and form echoed throughout the 20th Century, influencing a host of modern artistic styles.

Let’s have a look at how Bernard’s techniques have shaped the world of art.

Bold, Evocative Color

Bernard wasn’t afraid to make a statement with his work. His use of broad strokes and vivid palettes revolutionized the way artists perceived and approached color. This visibly influenced movements like Fauvism and Expressionism.

Pioneering Flatness

In collaboration with Gauguin, Bernard explored Cloisonnism; a technique characterized by flat colors enclosed by dark contours—a stark contrast to the modeling and realism sought by earlier Impressionists. This slight inclination towards abstractness paved the way for more extreme abstract movements like Cubism and abstract Expressionism.

Symbolic Use of Imagery

Bernard’s Symbolist tendencies, wherein he incorporated religious and philosophical themes into his work, had an enduring influence on art. Many modern artists drew inspiration from his tendency to portray symbolic themes, pushing their works to more profound depths.

Let’s take this exploration a bit further and shed light on Bernard’s effect on individual artists. Van Gogh, for instance, has publicly acclaimed Bernard’s influence on his own expressive use of color. Other artists, like Henri Matisse and André Derain, adopted Bernard’s bold color techniques, propelling the Fauvist movement.

Throughout the art world, it’s clear that Émile Bernard’s innovative style and techniques have played a pivotal role. His approach acted as a catalyst in the transition from elegant Impressionism to more expressive and abstract forms of painting. Indeed, his impact on modern art continues to resonate today.

Legacy and Continued Influence

Émile Bernard – remember the name. It was his vision that led to a seismic shift in the art world. His influence weaves a complex narrative in the fabric of modern art.

A post-Impressionist and Symbolist painter, Bernard reconfigured the world of art around him. His daring use of color – bold, defiant, intense – rippled through the abstract movements of the 20th Century. Not just any movements, we’re talking about the big leagues: Expressionism and Fauvism. Even Cubism owes a debt to Bernard’s experimental flatness, a nod to the Cloisonnism he developed with Paul Gauguin.

Fellow artists took notice. Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, André Derain – these are names even a child might know. But did they know these masters were inspired by Bernard’s groundbreaking techniques?

The trick is not just in his style but also in his themes. Philosophical ideologies, religious symbolism – it was Bernard who brought these weighty topics into the canvas. This enticed artists to delve beyond mere aesthetics to deeper meanings, further revolutionizing the art landscape.

Here’s a quick glance at some key art movements influenced by Bernard:

Art MovementBrief Description
FauvismEmphasizes painterly qualities and strong color over representational accuracy.
ExpressionismStrives to present the world under an utterly subjective perspective.
CubismAims to depict reality by showing multiple points of view simultaneously.

The tale of Émile Bernard isn’t just a history lesson. It’s a continuing force in the narratives defined by the artists of today and tomorrow. After all, we continue to speak his language – the language of color, form, expression. And in that lexicon, his resonate continues, his influence endures. Bernard’s inspiration is an unending story, ever flowing into the streams of artistic evolution.


Émile Bernard’s artistry isn’t just a relic of the past. It’s a vibrant force that continues to ripple through the art world, inspiring and influencing countless artists. His bold use of color, innovative techniques, and profound themes have left an indelible mark on movements like Expressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism. His impact is evident in the works of great artists like Van Gogh, Matisse, and Derain. We can’t underestimate Bernard’s influence on modern art. It’s as relevant today as it was during his time. His legacy lives on, shaping the narratives of artists who, like Bernard, aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of expression.

Categorized as Artists