Bernard and his family lived in Tonnerre a town in north-central France from 1904 to 1919. In this work, it is clear that Bernard has completely abandoned Cloissonism as well as Synthetism for a kind of modern classicism as espoused by Cézanne. Bernard's former emphasis on flatness gives way to depth and perspective. This sweeping and expansive view over the red tiled roofs of the town includes the tower of Église Notre-Dame de Tonnerre a 12th-century gothic church.
In 1904, Bernard returned to France after spending time abroad, including in Italy, Turkey, and Egypt. He combined his avowal to return to tradition having been influenced by work he saw by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian with a Cézanne-style breaking down of forms to colorful blocks placed side-by-side. Shortly after his return from abroad, Bernard traveled to Aix-en-Provence to meet with Cézanne, whose work he had admired deeply for years. The friendship between the two, while mutually satisfying, was largely confined to letter writing and had begun late in the elder artist's life. The dialogue between Bernard and Cézanne captures the essence of that critical moment in the development of modernism.
Émile Bernard's most formative artistic years were spent in the city of Paris where the Impressionist style had arisen and dominated the avant garde scene into the 1880s. He immersed himself in the arts, attending exhibitions and visiting galleries and studying at the École des Arts Décoratifs beginning in 1884. He also trained at the well-respected Atelier Cormon, the studio of the artist and teacher, Fernand Cormon. There he met Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, with him he formed a lasting friendship. Eventually, he was dismissed for "insubordinate behavior" and thus the radical young artist struck out on his own.
Bernard's close friendships with Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh, two of the most influential artists of the Post-Impressionist period, proved fruitful in many ways, not least of which was the trio's intense co-experimentation; frequently, the produced works in identical themes and also made portraits of one another. Bernard maintained an extensive personal correspondence with Van Gogh and the letters they exchanged provide a unique window into the relationship. It is said that he was the first person to become aware of the importance of Van Gogh's work. Interestingly, Van Gogh's criticism of his work, particularly the biblical themes, prompted Bernard to end the correspondence. In the late 1880s, Bernard developed his unique Cloisonnist and Synthetist styles, which were extraordinarily influential for artists such as Gauguin, Anquetin, and Sérusier.