Bernard Buffet

Bernard Buffet, 1949
Annabel in an Evening Dress
1959
Oil on canvas

Bernard Buffet


Bernard Buffet (1928-1999) aroused worldwide public interest and passion by describing the anxiety and the void after World War II, with his so personal use of black lines and restrained colours. His art depriving his figures of all vanity was the focus of attention, and quite controversial. It encapsulated both Sartre’s existentialism and Camus’s view of the absurd, which had a strong influence on contemporary youth. This made him a standard bearer of post-war figurative art. Buffet belonged to a group – “L’Homme Témoin (The Witness)” – along with Bernard Lorjout and André Minaux, considered as a new school of figurative painting. In the mid 1950s, Buffet’s work was often presented in Japan, where the popularity of abstract painting was at its highest. Buffet impressed many Japanese artists with the strong expression and the straight black lines characteristic of his works. More than half a century has passed since, but Buffet’s work still makes its presence and influence strongly felt in today’s art.

Buffet used to say “The only thing I can do is paint,” and “I could bury myself in paintings”. He dedicated his entire life to painting. Throughout his life, there was a woman who kept influencing him. In 1958, Buffet married Annabel at the age of 30. He was fascinated by the fertility of her talent and expressions which inspired him to try various styles of representation. It was in that period that he started to leave his deliberately monotonous palette and use a wide variety of colours. From then on, his paintings also gained cheerfulness. Annabel was his lifelong Muse. He left many paintings in which she figures as model.

Buffet loved our museum, which he and Annabel honoured with 7 visits in their lifetime. His last visit was in May 1996 for the opening of the Gallery devoted to his engravings, upon which occasion he left these words:
“I want you to have a dialogue with my paintings by pure affection. Painting is not something to talk about or to analyse; it is something just to feel. A hundredth of a second is enough to judge a painting.”