Émile Henri Bernard
La Moisson à Saint-Briac –The Harvest at Saint-Briac, 1889
Oil on canvas / 71 x 90 cm
Signed on lower left: Emile Bernard 1889
Inv. no. 1984.309 / Purchased 1984 with the support of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia,
Deutsche Bank Neuss, 3M Deutschland GmbH and the Museum Association of the Clemens Sels Museum Neuss
In 1884 Émile Bernard enrolled in the atelier of the academic painter Fernand Cormon in Paris where he made the acquaintance of Vincent van Gogh, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Louis Anquetin. Together with Anquetin, Bernard developed a painting style that was dubbed ‘Cloisonnism’ in reference to the medieval enamel technique. The style was also influenced by medieval glass painting as well as by Japanese color woodcuts and the popular Images d’Épinal. Bernard’s works are characterized by homogeneous, strongly contoured areas of color, abstract shapes and a rejection of illusionistic spatial representation, through which he broke away from the Impressionist forms of expression. In 1888 Bernard presented these ideas to Paul Gauguin with whom he developed a new style known as ‘Synthetism.’ An example of it is “The Harvest at Saint-Briac” which Bernard abstracts to flat geometrical shapes and successive planes of color that give only a very limited impression of spatial depth. Bernard believed color to be the key to the mood of a work. Here the choice of light pastel shades and the transparent application of the paint convey the carefree lightness of a summer day – in contrast to the physically demanding harvesting work.