A painter, engraver, and also an art critic, writer and poet, Emile Bernard is a key personality in the development of modern. In the late 1880s, he launched the Cloisonnist style that was to become so important for Gauguin and Van Gogh, as well as for the Nabis.
Following the controversy over the invention of symbolism in painting, which violently opposed him to Gauguin in 1891, Bernard moved to Cairo, where he reconsidered the Symbolists’ schematic stylization and search for primitivism. His discovery of the old masters however led him gradually to renew his ties with tradition.
Back in France, he published some crucial witness testimony on Cezanne and writings on esthetics, taking issue with the avant-gardes in the name of the pictorial tradition. But, far from defining itself in terms of outmoded traditionalism, his art invariably bears the stamp of an inquisitive, tormented mind in search of the absolute in art.