Printable version : BTP 19-2015
“Van Gogh assis, vu de dos” Asnières, winter 1886-1887
Aristotype, 132×160 mm, later mount, caption in ink by Bernard on the print, another handwriting on the folded mount.
Provenance : S. Clin, a collector of Émile Bernard’s paintings and memorabilia, who lent this unique print to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam for the Émile Bernard exhibition, August-Nov. 1990.
Nevertheless, most photographic and digital copies still reproduce a post-1940’s version, printed from an inter-negative, the caption being partially hidden by a blank label. The first confirmed publication was in: Tralbaut, Van Gogh le mal aimé, Lausanne, 1969, page 210.
This aristotype, or collodion coated paper print, is the only vintage print known of the famous picture welcoming visitors at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Sitting in front of Vincent Van Gogh, Émile Bernard who wrote “mon portrait en 1886” (My Portrait in 1886). Only few objective elements can confirm
the identification, the grey felt hat, the shoulders (see Pissarro, p.5). Émile Bernard
is said to have only few friends. The tree has no leaves, the weather could be cold. The date in the long second
caption says 1887. In the Van Gogh correspondence, mentions of Asnières start only in 1887.
Who could have taken the picture? Paul Signac is knwn as a friend of both but no evidence of any photographic activity about 1887 could be found.
ÉMILE BERNARD (1868-1941) Handwriting examples
Comparison with the dedication to Émile Schuffenecker on a photographic reproduction of a Vincent Van Gogh Portrait, 1991.
Émile Bernard’s handwriting is very peculiar, indeed, as any single letter is dissociated. Although there wasn’t a broad interest for graphology in the 1880’s, it is worth mentioning that the separation of letters inside words is generally associated by “graphologists” with a lack of synthetic thinking, which is ironic for an artist considered a
promoter of an artistic movement called “Synthétisme”.
Examples of Bernard’s writing are not so common, for example ”all the letters from Émile Bernard to Van Gogh have to be considered lost. There must have been a few dozen of them” (Van Gogh Correspondence, Van Gogh Museum)”.
The caption on folded margin : “Émile Bernard en conversation avec Vincent Van-Gogh -sur les quais de la Seine à Asnières En 1887 tous deux firent une toile intitulée “Le Pont d’Asnières” que l’on aperçoit dans le fond de cette photographie.”
Translation of the French text : [Émile Bernard in conversation with Vincent Van Gogh on the Seine’s banks at Asnières. In 1887 both made a painting titled “Le Pont d’Asnières”, bridge which can be seen in the background of this photograph.]
In this second caption, observing the handwriting, all single letters are dissociated from one another again, but look different from Bernard’s letters, for example in “Asnières”. The angle of the writing is quite different too.
We asked his opinion the Professor of Paleography in the French Ecole des Chartes who authorized us to quite him : “ces deux écritures n’ont aucun rapport. Sans aller plus loin Il suffit de comparer les mots Asnières et les dates: on ne fait pas plus différent. La légende à la 1re personne et celle à la 3e c’est une contradiction de plus. Amitiés, Marc” (These two writings have no relation. Just compare the words “Asnieres” and the dates: nothing more different. One legend at the 1st person and the other at 3rd, that it is a contradiction again. Regards, Marc).