In 1886 Van Gogh moved to Paris at age 33. This is where he met the young artist Émile Bernard (1868 - 1941) who was only 18 years old then. They may have met at Fernand Cormon’s studio where they both studied. Or at Julien (Pere) Tanguy’s shop, a paint grinder who sold art supplies and also was an art dealer.

Van Gogh and Bernard were both influenced in Paris by Japanese art.

From Vincent’s letter to his brother Theo in July 1888 it seems that he introduced Émile Bernard to the ‘Japonaiseries’:

"I learned there myself, and I got Anquetin and Bernard to learn with me.

22 letters from Vincent to Emile

After Van Gogh had left Paris and moved to Arles Vincent kept writing his friend. 22 letters from Van Gogh to Bernard have been preserved. Vincent often wrote about art, discovering techniques and color combinations. They learned from each other just like older masters did, which Van Gogh described in his letter to Émile Bernard in August 1888:

"You’ve never been closer to Rembrandt, my dear chap, than then. In Rembrandt’s studio, the incomparable sphinx, Vermeer of Delft, found this extremely sound technique that hasn’t been surpassed. Which today..... we’re burning... to find."

Christ in the Garden of Olives

Van Gogh stopped writing Bernard after he had disapproved of Bernard’s painting in November 1889:

"And when I compare that with that nightmare of a Christ in the Garden of Olives, well, it makes me feel sad, and I herewith ask you again, crying out loud and giving you a piece of my mind with all the power of my lungs, to please become a little more yourself again."

Our dear friend Vincent

The personal connection between the two artists is clear in Bernard’s letter to Albert Aurier on August 2, 1890 soon after Van Gogh had died:

"Our dear friend Vincent died four days ago. He finally died on Monday evening, still smoking his pipe which he refused to let go of, explaining that his suicide had been absolutely deliberate and that he had done it in complete lucidity. You know how much I loved him and you can imagine how much I wept.”
Portrett van Emile Bernard door Henri de Toulouse LautrecPortrait of Emile Bernard by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec

Van Gogh en Emile Bernard in AsnieresVan Gogh and Emile Bernard in Asnières near Paris.

Other masters

Would you like to beautify your home with a hand-painted reproduction in oil on canvas other than a Van Gogh? Check out some of the old masters we copied before or let us know your favorite painting.
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