Art & Culture

Published on October 17th, 2014 | by Lucie Pierron

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Exhibition « Émile Bernard, » at the Musée de l’Orangerie. Émile Bernard, a sweet stylistic journey.

“An artist who wants to raise his art has a duty to know what was produced at all times,” Émile Bernard, The Aesthetics Renovation, 1905.

The Orangerie Museum is dedicating a retrospective to the French artist Émile Bernard, a first in a French national museum. The honored painter has a fairly specific and unusual profile. He was a Protean artist that paced his painting for all areas and all ages. His successive mutations of his creations are the result of a redefinition of his personality and his style which were continually call into question. This exhibition is a real path to full discovery or rediscovery of the various techniques of the time.
Despite his repeated attempts at pictorials, Emile Bernard never acquired his rightful place in the development of modern art, in retrospect, his influence has not always been recognized.

The first path that Émile Bernard took was Impressionism. Man of his time, he featured some of the techniques of his contemporaries (pointillism, pastel colors, light and shadow…). The themes represented are related to Impressionism: « Bather Lily » is strongly reminiscent of Monet’s Water Lilies, and the Breton landscapes refer to landscapes Pont Aven by Paul Gauguin.

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Pont Aven Painting by Emile Bernard. Photo by Dandylan3.free.fr

However, despite significant influence and common traits influence, Émile Bernard can not be considered as an Impressionist painter. Inspired by the great works of his time, there is always an exception to the medium to which he is related.

Abandoning some of the impressionist techniques after this first experience, Bernard turned to a new period called the “Cloisonnism.” Heir of Impressionism, he divided his work into forms. The range of colors in his paintings are surrounded by a clear line that “divides”. So, staying true to his original definition of pictorial symbolism, the movement of which he claims to a part he shaped the colors that were needed in the first place, and the work is “elevated to a transcendent idealism.”

This work is also the result of the influence of Japanese prints that were of major importance in the work of the artist. « Chiffonières » painting – Clichy is a good example of the Japanese influence.
This transition period, synthesis of a legacy and a first “flight,” remains unclear to many critics. One can perhaps draw an analogy between the work of Bernard and that of Henri Rivière, a French painter known for his artistic proximity to Japanese art.
[The “Japanism / Impressionism association was also the subject of an exhibition at the National Library of France in 2009].

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Women on the Nile or the Mourners are scenes from his everyday life. Photo by inha.revues.org

The hunger of the fashionable Orient at that time (in Tangier Delacroix, Kandinsky or with Arab Cemetery) hit Émile Bernard. It was in Cairo that he escaped and settled for a few years. The discovery of new customs, and a new civilization profoundly changed his relationship to painting. He took the opposite direction against naturalists and impressionists.
His words: “See the style, not the object.” Indeed, for him the man had painted the object so much that he forgot the style. Unconsciously, he opens the door to a new movement, a new way of thinking that he called “the School of Pont Aven” afterwards. The paintings, mostly large format artistic that depicts scenes of Egyptian life: Women on the Nile or the Mourners are scenes from his everyday life.

This period was also marked by the proximity that Émile Bernard enjoyed with the Nabis. This post-Impressionist artistic movement, avant-garde of the nineteenth century, is in response to classical culture. In sync with great spiritual and intellectual ambition, the Nabis make creativity the first element of their art endeavoring to find his “sacred” character. The influence is also reciprocal: while Bernard was inspired by the use of color “paint tube,” without mixture, it is also found in the work of the Nabis -influences from the school of Pont Aven.

His work is also a synthesis of different styles of the time. The Cloisonist traits are present and the impressionist traits are allusive, in the same way that the title “The Three races” recalls “the Three Graces” by Raphael, making direct reference to a classical heritage.

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The pictorial aesthetic renovation. Photo by inha.revues.org.

The pictorial journey continues its run with the return of Bernard in France in 1904. His trip to Aix en Provence and his encounter with Cézanne give a new face to his work. The “Cezannism” fed his work mixed with the influence of the “Greats”: Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian. This is at the same time that he launched his magazine on the pictorial aesthetic renovation, so he initiated a work of theorist art and began his ascent into the highest social sphere, all while attending the same showroom as Paul Claudel and Elemir Bourges.

This merger between Bernard and Cézanne says “a return to order” for the painter in the early 1920s. Putting aside permanently the Impressionism, Cloisonnism and Orientalism of his youth, he finally connected to classicism. This new and final position earned him numerous adverse criticisms.

For those of you who are curious about the art of various periods, with various influences and styles get ready to make a real pictorial journey because this exhibition is for you !

Émile Bernard (1868-1941)
September 17, 2014 – January 5, 2015
Orangerie Museum – Tuileries Gardens, Paris 75001.

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About the Author

Etudiante en sociologie et en sciences politiques à l'Université Paris Dauphine, Lucie baigne dans le monde culturel et particulièrement dans la musique. Pianiste, ouvreuse à la Philharmonie de Paris, elle désire s'orienter vers la production dans la musique classique, à terme. Voyageuse dans l'âme, Lucie a mené dernièrement une enquête de terrain de trois mois sur l'implantation des nouvelles Philharmonies polonaises (dans 15 villes différentes). Démocratiser la culture et la faire venir dans les milieux les plus défavorisés est une des missions qui lui tiennent le plus à cœur, justifiant son engagement au GENEPI, association favorisant l'intervention en prison.



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