Bernard Buffet Museum, inaugurated on 25th November 1973, was founded by Kiichiro OKANO (1917-1995) to collect and exhibit works by the French painter Bernard Buffet, a prominent figure of French figurative art after World War II. The museum boasts the world’s largest collection of Buffet’s works, with more than 2000 oil paintings, watercolours, drawings, engravings, illustrated books, posters etc.
Okano first encountered with the work of Buffet in the first half of the 1950s, when the ravages of WWII were still quite visible. Buffet’s representation of post-war vacuity and anxiety made a deep and lasting impression on Okano’s mind. Okano started collecting representative works of every period of Buffet’s career, and later, with a view to commemorating this unique painter as a witness of the 20th century, he decided to found a museum near his hometown, hoping that “Culture flourishes on this soil through the talent of this man of genius”.
“I had just been demobilized and sent home from the war, and I remember standing still in front of his paintings, deeply moved and astonished, admiring the sharp and original shapes and lines, the gloomy colours and the dominant black, white and gray; the truculence, the keenness, the deep sorrow and the dry emptiness pervading his work. Rusty silence and poetry. There I saw accusation of and provocation against the devastated post-war French society. His paintings instilled a ray of hope in the void and stupor oppressing our generation after the defeat. France, a country which repeatedly had been a battlefield, which suffered the Occupation, and where fellow citizens killed each other. I was awed by the fact that a young genius with such sensibility and ability had been born in the apocalyptic context of World War II. His art undoubtedly was a new dawn, which overcame the melancholy in my mind. Since then, I have been a captive of Buffet. His paintings showed me a light, and a new road, and his paintings only could do that as I had no religion. This is how my ardent admiration for Buffet started.”
Kiichiro OKANO, “Buffet and I” (April 1978)