By Mackie Healy, Art Market Views, Contributor
The Indianapolis Museum of Art has acquired a rare 10-foot tall cabinet by French artist Emile Bernard, better known for his flat, atmospheric, and melancholy tinged paintings of rural people and their countryside. The 1892 cabinet is only one of only four known examples of carved wood furniture created by Brittany’s Pont-Aven School.
The corner cabinet belonged to Swiss Post-Impressionist collector of Samuel Josefowitz who made a fortune from mail order and record clubs. Josefowitz has been trustee of the Indianapolis Museum since 1990. In 1998 he sold 17 paintings (and donated 84 prints) by Gauguin and followers to the museum, for an estimated $30 million.
The folksy cabinet is carved and painted to depict scenes from Breton life. The polychromed wood surface is adorned with flowers, tendrils and a woman’s headdress, recalling the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements.
Bernard was an innovator in early modern painting. His auction record stands for the Portrait de Madame Schuffenecker, which sold at Tajan for $515,707 in 2006.
Bernard, along with Paul Gauguin, was the founder of the group of artists known as the Pont-Aven School. Named for a remote village in the French province of Brittany, the Pont-Aven School attracted progressive art and literature types in the 1880s and 1890s. Pont-Aven works inspired the creation of Les Nabis, a post-Impressionist avant-garde coalition of artists, also led by Bernard. Named after the prophets that revitalized Israel, the group of young arts students believed they were to become the prophets of modern art. Members included painters Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard.
Combined with the recent addition of Paul Gauguin’s Volpini prints, the Indianapolis Museum of Art has increased its Pont-Aven collection to over 100 works and has created one of most extensive collections of Pont-Aven artists in North America.