Bernard painted this portrait at the request of Vincent van Gogh, who, inspired by the example of Japanese artists, wished to exchange works. Van Gogh asked Bernard and Gauguin to make portraits of one another. Instead, they each sent Vincent a self-portrait. In the background of the painting both Gauguin and Bernard did, however, include a likeness of the other.
Van Gogh was delighted with this painting by Bernard, describing it as 'some cursory tones, some blackish lines, but it’s as stylish as real, real Manet.'