Painting, we do not talk about it, we do not analyse it, we feel it.
Most well-known for his figurative paintings, the prolific French artist Bernard Buffet was born and raised in Paris. As a young man, he studied for two years at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and quickly earned critical acclaim. His first work was exhibited in 1946, a self-portrait shown at the Salon des Moins de Trente Ans at the Galerie Beaux-Arts. A year later, the Art Impressions book shop hosted Buffet’s first solo show.
Buffet was a strong proponent of figuration at a time when abstraction’s international popularity was dramatically on the rise. Along with Bernard Lorjou and André Minaux, he was a founding member of the French anti-abstraction group L’homme Témoin (the “Witness-Man”). His own works – most frequently landscapes, portraits, and still lives – employ graphic lines, slashes, and spikes and a subdued palette, aesthetic choices that aligned Buffet with a sense of post-war melancholy.
Moreso than many of his contemporaries, Buffet experienced a dramatic rise and fall in popularity throughout the course of his career. His early and remarkable success was met with a marked downfall beginning in the 1950s: As the New York Times put it in 2016, “Few artists have known the roller coaster of fame and shame that the French painter Bernard Buffet experienced during his life. Buffet, who was once hailed as the artistic successor to Picasso only to be reviled later as vulgar and the epitome of poor taste, was an immensely popular artist before falling into near oblivion.”
Not everyone abandoned Buffet. Indeed, in 1977, Maurice Garnier chose to dedicate his gallery exclusively to the artist. Garnier, who passed away in 2014, had once hoped to open a museum dedicated to Buffet; while he did not realize this dream in his lifetime, collector Kichiiro Okano did open The Bernard Buffet Museum in Surugadaira, Japan, in 1973.
Buffet suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, a condition that led to his death by suicide in 1999, at the age of 71. In recent years, Buffet has been the subject of critical reconsideration and renewed popularity: in 2015, Nicholas Foulkes published his biography Bernard Buffet: The Invention of the Mega-Artist, and in 2016 the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris dedicated an exhibition to the artist. Today, his works are held in the collections of the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, the Tate, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, among others.
Auction Results Bernard Buffet