Emile Bernard was born on 28 April 1868 in Lille into a bourgeois family of comfortable means. His father plied a lucrative trade in the textile business. The family moved to Paris in 1878 to Paris. Bernard felt rejected by his parents, whose affection almost exclusively concentrated upon his somewhat sickly sister, Madeleine.
At the age of 16 Bernard was accepted as a pupil at the studio of Cormon. After his expulsion from Cormon's studio for insubordinate behavior in the early Spring of 1886, Bernard undertook his six-month trip through Normandy and Brittany.
From the age of 18 until his departure for Italy and Egypt seven years later, he made friends and foes among the principal members of the Paris avant-garde movement.
He roamed Parisian night-life with Toulouse Lautrec and Anquetin, was deeply touched by Cézanne's works and fascinated by the weird and determined stranger from the North, Vincent van Gogh, with whom he worked tpgether for a several months.
Later he was to remain in touch with him through an extensive correspondence and exchange of works. About Vincent, Bernard composed the first article, called Van Gogh.
As radical in his preferences as in his aversions, he harshly rejected the work of Signac and the Neo-Impressionists after having worked in dots himself for many months, deciding to curb his art into linear abstraction. He worked briefly alongside Gauguin in Pont-Aven.
It was Bernard, who first realized the importance of the Van Gogh artwork.