Vincent van Gogh arrived in Paris in early March of 1886. At that time he was barely 33 years old, had been active as an artist for just over 5 years, and came with the declared intention of studying nude drawing
and classical art for at least a year at the Atelier Cormon
. There Emile Bernard, Van Gogh's junior by 15 years and a student, puportedly met him. There or in the small artist's material shop owned by Père Tanguy
From April 1887, Theo van Gogh succeeded in winning the favour of Monet and Pissarro, who was joined by Degas in the summer, and finally, towards the end of the year, by Guillaumin and Gauguin
. And Theo, who had demonstrated an interest in the Impressionists long before his brother, by no means regarded these contacts as his own achievement, but believed instead that owed them largely to Vincent, who had understood how to create an entourage of artists and friends, something totally incapable of doing by Theo. In time contacts with avant-garde circles, particularly those surroundings Toulouse Lautrec
and Bernard, became stronger.
Other factors which were instrumental in promoting this development were almost certainly the two exhibitions organized by van Gogh. The first, held in the early summer of 1887 at the Tambourin, consisted of Japanese woodcuts which Van Gogh had dug up. The exhibition of prints influenced Anquetin and Bernard. At the end of 1887 Vincent had the opportunity to exhibit his work in the Restaurant du Chalet, he persuaded Bernard, Anquetin and Lautrec to join him. Bernard sold his first picture there, and Anquetin sold a study, and Vincent made a exchange with Gauguin. It really looked quite new and Bernard recalled: by far the most advanced thing in Paris.
The show was visited not only by Pissarro, Gauguin, Guillaumin, but also by Seurat, whom Van Gogh met there for the first time. And a new level of discussion was found. The discussion covered a wider field. An important topic was the measures to be taken to safeguard the material existence of painters. From then on Van Gogh dreamed of founding an artists cooperative of an union of the Impressionists handled by dealers on the Garand Boulevard (Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Degas) and those from the Petit Boulevard, amongst whom Van Gogh numbered himself, alongside of Signac and Seurat, Guillaumin and Gauguin, of permanent exhibitions in Paris, London and Marseille, of artists houses in Brittany, in the Midi, in the Borinage.
The Unity that strengthens was, of course, a long way from being achieved. There were wide gulfs separating the various factions, and Emile Bernard in particular, in the euphoria of his recently gained recognition and success and with youthful élan, seems to have been active as an intriguer. He picked quarrels with Gauguin and refused to exhibit with Signac.