I’m actually starting to think that Emile Bernard was the classic mean
girl boy. Hear me out. In 1888, Vincent van Gogh is endlessly writing letters to Gauguin and Bernard about creating an “artistic community.” I mean, these letters — like this one, to Bernard in June of ’88 — are desperate.
I’m just imagining the two recipients just giggling like high school girls at their French studios at Vincent’s expense.
So, in the classic mean girl (think Mean Girls’ Plastics) fashion, Bernard sends the above self-portrait as a big “Oh, you want to hang out with us? That’s so sweet!”
And you know what van Gogh writes back?!
Van Gogh was enthusiastic about the gift – “a couple of simple tones, a couple of dark lines, but it is [as] elegant as a real, genuine Manet.”
I read “elegant,” but all I’m envisioning are those less-popular girls that fawn over Regina George:
Well, it turns out Emile Bernard is, in fact, our story’s Cady Heron. He’s the one to arrange Vincent van Gogh’s first retrospective after his death in 1890. But where Mean Girls grants Cady the cute boy and the diverse friendships, Bernard loses Gauguin. They sharply split ways because Georges-Albert Aurier named Gauguin the leader of Symbolism and initiator of the Synthetist manner, a title Bernard felt entitled to.
Can’t win ’em all, Emile.