In Paris, Vincent befriended the artist Émile Bernard (1868–1941), who was 15 years younger than him. They met in the spring of 1886 at Fernand Cormon’s studio and ran into each other again that autumn at Julien Tanguy’s art supply shop. Bernard recalled:
“When he popped out of the back room with that high, wide forehead of his, I was almost afraid of him, he looked so wild, but we soon became friends.”
A close friendship arose between the two artists; they painted together and introduced each other to people who could prove useful. Vincent admired Bernard's work and acted as something of a mentor to the younger man. They visited each other often; Bernard would drop by the Van Gogh brothers’ flat on Rue Lepic, and Vincent could often be found at Bernard’s house at 5 Avenue de Beaulieu in Asnières, a little way outside Paris. He had a little studio in the garden, and they often worked there together, for instance making portraits of Tanguy.
After Vincent left Paris on 19 February 1888, he and Bernard never saw each other again, but they kept up a lively correspondence. They swapped artistic views and opinions and often sent each other studies so they could stay up to date on each other's work. In a letter in November 1889, Vincent expressed criticism of Bernard's most recent work, using words like “nightmare” and “atrocious”. Although the letter did not put an end to their friendship, Bernard never wrote to Vincent again.