A painter, sculptor, engraver and illustrator, Bernard was born in 1868 in Lille, France, but went to Paris to live in 1881. In 1885, he registered in the Studio of Cormon and met and befriended Toulouse-Lautrec and Anquetin. The next year, he was expelled for insubordination and decided to travel to Normandy and Brittany.
In 1888, at the age of twenty, Bernard became friends with Gauguin who he eventually collaborated with in Pont-Aven. With sponsership from the Count of Rochefoucauld, Bernard traveled to Constantinople and Egypt, where he remained until 1904. After various returns and visits to France, Italy and Tonnerre, he died in Paris in 1941.