European Art: 19th Century

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Brittany Landscape, c. 1888-1889

Émile Bernard

French, 1868-1941
Oil on canvas
28-7/8 x 39-1/2 in. (73.3 x 100.3 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Jennifer Jones Simon
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

This view of the Breton countryside exemplifies Bernard’s cloisonniste style, with discrete patches of brilliant color enclosed by dark, geometric contours. Expelled for insubordination from the studio of his academic master, Bernard invented this new style while still a teenager. In August 1888, he traveled to Brittany and there spent two months painting beside Gauguin, whom he later accused of stealing credit for Cloisonism. Gauguin is present in the glowing, saturated colors of this picture, but the influence of another artist is also felt: Bernard’s short, vertical brushstrokes betray his careful study of Cézanne, on whose work the young painter would later publish an important theoretical treatise. Less easily explained are the free, horizontal strokes in the sky and the lower right-hand corner. These may be later additions made by the picture’s first owner, the Irish painter Roderic O’Conor.

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