Bernard Buffet is one of the most important Post-War figurative painters. Early genius, Bernard Buffet painted ceaselessly. His colossal body of work embraces all major pictural themes, from History paintings to trivial topics.
“Bernard Buffet, secrets d’atelier”, 1999
Film by Nicolas Buffet, son of the artist.
Bernard Buffet was born on July 10th, 1928 in Paris. In 1943 at just 15 years old – an exceptional case – he entered the Paris École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, where he stayed for three years. A young prodigy, the artist Bernard Buffet exhibited for the first time in 1946: at the Salon des Moins de Trente Ans (Salon for the under thirty), organized in the Galerie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He was just 18 years old.
From the following year, exhibitions followed at a fast pace: Bernard Buffet participated in the Salon des Indépendants (1947 and 1948), at the Librairie des Impressions d’Art (1947), again at the Salon des Moins de Trente ans (1947), at the Salon d’Automne and at the Salon de Mai (1948). In 1947, the Musée National d’Art Moderne of Paris (now known as the Pompidou Centre) bought one of his paintings, Nature-morte au poulet (Still Life with Chicken); he was barely twenty years old. In 1948, Emmanuel David of the Galerie Drouant-David, offered him an exclusive contract. The exclusivity was later shared with Maurice Garnier. The same year, the painter Bernard Buffet won the prestigious Prix Critique of the Galerie Saint-Placide, jointly with the painter Bernard Lorjou. In February 1949, his first solo exhibition was held at the Galerie Drouant-David.
From 1950 to 1958, the artist painter Bernard Buffet was in an intimate relationship with Pierre Bergé. At that time, and thanks to his friend Jean Giono, he had a cabin in Manosque, and then moved to Nanse in the same region, where he lived in an old barn and painted three large paintings Horreur de la guerre (Horror of War) (1954).
During the 1950s, Bernard Buffet created several drypoint illustrations: the Les chants de Maldoror by the Comte de Lautréamont (1952), Recherche de la Pureté by Jean Giono (1953) and on this occasion, Louis Aragon published Lettres Françaises an article “Le paysage a 4 siècles et Bernard Buffet 24 ans” (Landscape is 4 centuries old, Bernard Buffet, 24 years old)”. Buffet also provided drypoint illustrations for Jean Cocteau’s La Voix Humaine (1957).
From 1952, the painter Bernard Buffet exhibited annually at the Galerie Drouant-David and with Maurice Garnier at the Galerie Visconti, choosing a theme each year. From 1957, these thematic shows were concentrated at the Galerie David et Garnier – the two dealers were partners for 11 years, and then from 1968, he was with the Galerie Maurice Garnier. A large number of subjects were chosen, such as Les Nus (Nudes) (1954 and 1980) Horreur de la guerre (Horror of War) (1955), Le Cirque (The Circus) (1956), Paysages de Paris (Landscapes of Paris) (1957), New York (1959), Portrait d’Annabel (Portraits of Annabel) (1961), Ecorchés (Skinned) (1965), La Corrida (1967), Les Plages (Beaches) (1968), Les Folles (The Mad Women) (1971), Le Japon (Japan) (1981), Les Clowns Musiciens (Clown Musicians) (1992), Mes Singes (My Monkeys)(1999)…
Bernard Buffet exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1952 and again in 1956, when a room was devoted to him at the French pavilion.
In 1955, the painter came first in the referendum organized by the magazine Connaissance des Arts to designate the ten best post-war painters.
In 1958, a first retrospective about the painter Bernard Buffet’s work was held at the Galerie Charpentier in Paris. On 12 December, he married Annabel Schwob, a singer, actress and writer in Ramatuelle, who then became Annabel Buffet. They adopted three children: Virginie, Danielle and Nicolas Buffet.
The artist Bernard Buffet also worked in the dramatic arts, and painted models for stage sets and costumes for several ballets: La Chambre (The Bedroom) in 1955 (lyrics by Georges Simenon, music by Georges Auric) for the Ballets de Paris Roland Petit, Le Rendez-vous manqué in 1958 (lyrics by Françoise Sagan, directed by Roger Vadim), Patron in 1959 (lyrics by Marcel Aymé, music by Guy Béart) again for the Ballets Roland Petit and Carmen in 1962 (music by Georges Bizet, directed by Louis Ducreux) for the Opéra de Marseille. Later, in 1967, for the Opéra de Paris, he painted a model of the stage curtain, the sets and costumes for Le grand cirque (The Great Circus) (music by Aram Khachaturian, choreography by Serge Lifar), and models for the sets and costumes for Istar (music by Vincent d’Indy, choreography by Serge Lifar).
In his home at Château l’Arc near Aix-en-Provence, Bernard Buffet made a group of paintings on the Life of Christ for the decoration of the castle’s chapel in 1961. Ten years later, asked to do so by Monseigneur Pasquale Macchi, the secretary to Pope Paul VI, Bernard Buffet will donate these paintings to the Vatican Museum.
In 1962, he was given the award of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. The same year, he created 16 etchings for an illustrated book of Charles Baudelaire’s poem Saint-Cast, souvenirs d’enfance (Saint-Cast, Childhood memories).
The following year, a retrospective exhibition of Bernard Buffet’s work was held in Japan, at the Museum of Modern Art of Tokyo and the Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto.
During the 1960s-1970s, the artist continued to create illustrations: india ink drawings for Toxique by Françoise Sagan (1964), colour lithographs for Herbier by Louise de Vilmorin (1966), and created new illustrated books: Mon Cirque with 44 colour lithograph illustrations (1968), Jeux de Dames, with twenty lithographs and poems by Verlaine, Rimbaud and Baudelaire (1970), and L’Enfer de Dante, with eleven drypoint engravings (1976).
During the 1970s, Bernard Buffet received many honours: he was awarded the Légion d’honneur in 1971, which was presented to him by Maurice Druon. In 1973, the Bernard Buffet Museum, entirely devoted to the painter’s work, was opened at Surugadaira in Japan, founded by M. Kiichiro Okano, a banker and great connoisseur of Bernard Buffet’s work. In 1974, he was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts; he was barely 45 years old.
At the end of the 1980s, he moved to his domain at La Baume near Tourtour in Provence.
Major retrospectives regarding Bernard Buffet’s work were held abroad during the 1990s: in Russia at the Pushkin Museum and the Hermitage in 1991, in Germany at the Documenta-Halle in Kassel in 1994, in Japan with a travelling retrospective (Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Akita, Hakodate and Obihiro) in 1995.
Suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, no longer able to paint, the artist Bernard Buffet committed suicide on 4th October 1999 at the dawn of the new millennium.
In February 2000, the Galerie Maurice Garnier, exhibited the final theme of Bernard Buffet’s work: La Mort (Death).
© Diane de Polignac Gallery
Translation: Jane Mac Avock
Clermont-Ferrand, Musée d’art Roger-Quilliot
Grenoble, Musée de Grenoble
Higashino, Musée Bernard Buffet
Marseille, Musée Cantini
Nantes, Musée d’arts
Paris, Centre national des arts plastiques
Paris, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre Pompidou
Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Rennes, Musée des beaux-arts
Saint-Étienne, Musée d’art moderne et contemporain
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Musée Estrine
Paintings by Bernard Buffet, Los Angeles County Museum, 1955
Niveau Gallery, New York, 1957
Cent tableaux de 1944 à 1958 par Bernard Buffet (Hundred paitings from 1944 to 1958 by Bernard Buffet), Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 1958
Les Voyages fantastiques de Cyrano de Bergerac ( The Fantastic Journeys of Cyrano de Bergerac), Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris, 1958
Bernard Buffet, Institut français, Berlin, 1958
Bernard Buffet, National Museum of modern Art of Tokyo, National Museum of modern Art of Kyoto, 1963
Bernard Buffet, Radierungen (Etchings), Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim, 1968
Bernard Buffet, Musée Unterlinden, Colmar, 1969
Sapporo Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, 1978
Bernard Buffet, Musée postal, Paris, 1978
Travelling retrospective of lithographed works in Japan, 1980
Pouchkine Museum, Moscow; Ermitage Museum, St. Petersburg., 1991
Bonjour Monsieur Buffet !, Musée Gustave Courbet, Ornans, 1993
Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea), Musée départemental de l’Oise, Beauvais, 1993
Bernard Buffet, Château de Chenonceau, 1993
Bernard Buffet retrospektive, Documenta-Halle, Kassel, 1994
Bernard Buffet, Odakyu Museum of Art, Tokyo; Takashimaya Museum of art, Kyoto ; Nara Sogo Museum, Nara ; Akita Senshu City Museum, Akita ; Hakodate Public Museum, Hokkaido ; Obihiro, Public Museum, Hokkaido, 1995
Jeanne d’Arc, Palais de Justice, Rouen, 1997
Bernard Buffet, Palais Bénédictine, Fécamp, 1998
Sogo Museum, Yokohama, 2000
Bernard Buffet, Musée Paul Valéry, Sète, 2003
Bernard Buffet : een omstreden œuvre, Gemeentemuseum, La Haye, 2006
Bernard Buffet et la Bretagne, Musée département breton, Quimper, 2007
Bernard Buffet Maler, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, 2008
Bernard Buffet, Centre de la Vieille Charité, Marseille, 2009
Bernard Buffet et Annabel, Sogo Museum of Art in Yokohama, 2009
Bernard Buffet, Meguro Museum, Tokyo, 2010
Post 1958 : une symphonie de couleur en plus (Post 1958: a symphony of colour in addition), Musée du Touquet-Paris-Plage, Le Touquet, 2014
Government Exhibition Hall, Andorra, 2014
Bernard Buffet, Hydar Aliyev Center, Bakou, 2014-2015
Bernard Buffet Rétrospective, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 2016-2017
Bernard Buffet, Intimement, Musée de Montmartre, Paris, 2016-2017
Bernard Buffet/ Roger Dutilleul : A travers l’œil d’un collectionneur (Bernard Buffet/ Roger Dutilleul: Through a collector’s eye), Galerie Diane de Polignac, Paris, 2017
Bernard Buffet Aujourd’hui (Bernard Buffet Today), Galerie Diane de Polignac & Chazournes, Paris, 2020
Pierre Descargues, Bernard Buffet, Paris, Éditions PLF, 1949
Pierre Descargues, Bernard Buffet, Paris, Éditions PLF, 1952
Pierre Bergé, Bernard Buffet, Horreur de la guerre, Paris, Éditions Parenthèses, 1955
Jean Giono, Bernard Buffet, Paris, Éditions Fernand Hazan, 1956
Pierre Bergé, Bernard Buffet, Paris, Éditions l’Artisan, 1958
Pierre Bergé, Bernard Buffet, Geneva, Éditions Pierre Cailler, 1958
Georges Simenon and Jean Bouret, Bernard Buffet, Paris, Éditions Les Cahiers de la Peinture, 1958
Georges Hourdin, Bernard Buffet, Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1958
Pierre Bergé, Bernard Buffet, Paris, Art et Style, 1958
Maurice Druon, Bernard Buffet, Paris, Éditions Hachette, 1964
Pierre Cabanne, Bernard Buffet par, Éditions Fernand Hazan, 1966
Charles Sorlier, Bernard Buffet lithographe I, Paris, Éditions Michèle Trinckvel, 1979
Maurice Rheims, Bernard Buffet graveur, Paris, Éditions d’Art de Francony, Éditions Maurice Garnier, 1983
Uwe Brauer, Bernard Buffet, biography, Geneva, Éditions Pro Art, 1983
Annabel Buffet, D’amour et d’eau fraîche, Paris, Éditions Sylvie Messinger, 1986
Yann Le Pichon, Bernard Buffet, (first two volumes of the monograph) Paris, Éditions Galerie Maurice Garner, 1986
Georges Durand, La divine comédie de Bernard Buffet, Paris, Éditions Desclée de Brouwer, 1986
Charles Sorlier, Bernard Buffet lithographe II, Paris, Éditions André Sauret, 1987
Alin Alexis Avila, Bernard Buffet, Tournai, Éditions Casterman, 1989
Stéphane Laurent, Bernard Buffet, le peintre crucifié, biography, Paris, Éditions Michalon, 2000
Annabel Buffet, Post Scriptum, Paris, Éditions Plon, 2001
Annabel Buffet and Jean-Claude Lamy, Bernard Buffet, secrets d’atelier, texts, photographs by Luc Fournol and Benjamin Auger, Paris, Éditions Flammarion, 2004
Lydia Harambourg, Bernard Buffet et la Bretagne, Quimper, Éditions Palantines, 2006
Henry Perier, Bernard Buffet et la Provence, Quimper, Éditions Palantines, 2007
Brigitte Camus, Buffet ou la psychanalyse en signature, Paris, Éditions de l’Épure, 2007
Yann Le Pichon, Bernard Buffet (third volume of the monograph), Paris, Éditions Galerie Maurice Garnier, 2007
Jean-Clause Lamy, Bernard Buffet, le Samouraï, biography, Paris, Éditions Albin Michel, 2008
John Sillevis, Bernard Buffet, monograph, Quimper, Éditions Palantines, 2008
Lydia Harambourg, Bernard Buffet, Fonds de dotation Bernard Buffet, Quimper, Éditions Palantines, Quimper, 2013
Bernard Buffet, catalogue of the exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris from 14 October 2016 to 26 February 2017, Paris, Éditions Paris Musées, Paris, 2016
Bernard Buffet, Intimement, catalogue of the exhibition at the Musée de Montmartre-Jardins Renoir from 18 October 2016 to 5 March 2017, Paris, Somogy éditions d’art, Paris, 2016