Bernard Buffet. An Intimate Portrait (extrait)

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Exhibition: ‘Bernard Buffet, Intimement’ (‘Bernard Buffet: An Intimate Portrait’) The Musée de Montmartre – Jardins Renoir

‘Le Vieux Montmartre’, the Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie of the 9th and 18th arrondissements of Paris Chair Jean-Manuel Gabert

18 October 2016–5 March 2017 Société Kléber Rossillon Chair Kléber Rossillon Société Saint-Jean et Saint-Vincent Managing Director Aude Viart With the contribution of Nicolas Buffet, the artist’s son, accompanied and advised by Jany Jansem, manager of the Nicolas Buffet Collection General Curator Yann le Pichon Associate Curator Sylvie Buisson Associate Curator and Head of Conservation Saskia Ooms Scenographer Frédéric Beauclair

© Somogy éditions d’art, Paris, 2016 © Musée de Montmartre, Paris, 2016 © Fondation pour le Rayonnement du Musée de Montmartre, Paris © Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie des 9e et 18e arrondissements de Paris ‘Le Vieux Montmartre’ © Rmn-Grand Palais – copyright management for the work of Denise Colomb (Denise Loeb, alias), 1902–2004 © ADAGP for the work of Bernard Buffet © ADAGP for the work of Giorgio Morandi © ADAGP for the work of Maurice Utrillo/and the Association Utrillo © Luc Fournol/Cyril Clément, Estate Luc Fournol © Daniel Frasnay/Akg-Images © François Pagès/Paris Match/Scoop © Whitney Museum of American Art for the work of Edward Hopper © Robert Mantienne © Loomis Dean/Getty Images © DRAC-Île-de-France © Archives Sylvie Buisson Book published under the direction of Somogy éditions d’art Publishing director: Nicolas Neumann Managing editor: Stéphanie Méséguer Editorial coordination and follow-up: Sarah Houssin-Dreyfuss and Caroline Puleo Graphic design: Nelly Riedel Translation from French into English: David and Jonathan Michaelson Editorial contribution: Katharine Turvey Production: Béatrice Bourgerie and Mélanie Le Gros ISBN : 978-2-7572-1128-1 Legal deposit: September 2016 Printed in Czech Republic (European Union)

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Vice Chairs Alain Larcher Michèle Trante Treasurer Éric Sureau Assistant Treasurer Odette Borzic-Hatchadourian Secretary Catherine Rousseau Honorary Chairs Daniel Rolland Jean-Marc Tarrit Board of Directors Thiery Aimar Laurent Bihl Chantal Bodère Odette Borzic-Hatchadourian Catherine Charrière Jean-Manuel Gabert Jean-Claude Gouvernon Alain Larcher Yves Mathieu Marie-France Moniot-Boutry Daniel Rolland Catherine Rousseau Éric Sureau Jean-Marc Tarrit Xavier Thoumieux Michèle Trante Administrative Director Isabelle Ducatez

COVER: Bernard Buffet, Portrait of Annabel (detail), c. 1959 Oil on canvas, 32.5 × 25 cm Private collection

FLAPS: Bernard Buffet, The Paint Box , used as palette, offered to Annabel 22.5 × 10.5 cm Private collection

BACK COVER: Luc Fournol,‘A few carefree moments in a life otherwise devoted to work. Bernard never realised how elegant and handsome he was. Seductively wrapped in solitude and modesty—that’s how I knew and loved him’, Château l’Arc, 1958 Photograph, published in Annabel Buffet and Jean-Claude Lamy, Bernard Buffet, Secrets d’Atelier ( Bernard Buffet: The Secret Studio, translated by Deke Dusinberre, Flammarion, 2004), p. 22

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BUFFET An Intimate Portrait

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Kléber Rossillon would like to warmly thank: Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris Bruno Julliard, First Deputy Mayor of Paris, Responsible for Culture Éric Lejoindre, Mayor of the 18th arrondissement of Paris Carine Rolland, First Deputy Mayor of the 18th arrondissement, Responsible for General Affairs, Culture, and Heritage Véronique Chatenay-Dolto, Regional Director, DRAC-Ile-de-France Sylvie Müller, Head of the Museums Department, DRAC-Ile-de-France, Ministry of Culture and Communication Pauline Lucet, museums advisor, DRAC-Ile-de-France Laurence Isnard, museums advisor, DRAC-Ile-de-France Véronique Bourbiaux, Museums Department, DRAC-Île-de-France and: Aude Viart, Managing Director of the Musée de Montmartre Nicolas Buffet, the artist’s son, accompanied and advised by Jany Jansem, manager of the Nicolas Buffet Collection Yann le Pichon, General Curator of the exhibition Sylvie Buisson, Associate Curator Saskia Ooms, Associate Curator and Head of Conservation at the Musée de Montmartre the directors of museums and public institutions for their active participation: Bernard Blistène, Director, Centre Pompidou – Musée National d’Art Moderne/ Centre de Création Industrielle, Paris; Didier Schulmann, Curator, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Centre Pompidou, Paris Guy Tosatto, Director, Musée de Grenoble, Grenoble Sophie Lévy, Director, Marie-Amélie Sénot, Conservation Assistant, Lille Métropole, Musée d’Art Moderne (LaM), d’Art Contemporain et d’Art Brut, Villeneuve-d’Ascq Pierre Bergé, President of the Comité Jean-Cocteau (Maison Jean-Cocteau, Milly-la-Forêt) and the sole holder of the moral rights for all of Jean Cocteau’s works Pascale Léautey, Director, Maison Jean-Cocteau, Milly-la-Forêt Mitsuyoshi Okano, President, Koko Okano, Director, Chika Amamiya, Curator, Bernard Buffet Museum, Higashino, Japan the gallery directors and auctioneers: Agnès Aittouarès, Galerie AB, Paris Marc Boumendil, Galerie Dil, Paris Éric Pillon, Paris Pierre and Pierre-Édouard de Souzy, Galerie de Souzy, Paris Kiyoshi Tamenaga and Kazuto Morita, Galerie Tamenaga, Paris Armand Torossian, auctioneer, Grenoble Jany Jansem, Galerie Matignon, Paris Ida Garnier and Céline Lévy, Galerie Maurice Garnier, Paris

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Kléber Rossillon would also like to thank the private collectors: Renée Auphan, Assistant Director on Carmen, La Môlaz, Switzerland Richard Bouy, Paris Jean-Luc Chaufour, Paris Françoise Chibret-Plaussu, Paris Denise Frélaut, the daughter of Jacques Frélaut, Paris Jany Jansem, Paris Yann le Pichon, Sèvres Christophe Mabillon, Lisses Gilles Métairie, Paris Jeanine Warnod, Paris and everyone who has contributed to this exhibition, in particular: Frédéric Beauclair, scenographer Cyril Clément, Luc Fournol Estate Catherine Dantan Gilles de Fayet, photographer Boris Dubois Flora Duret María González Menéndez Catherine Jourde Frédéric Mantienne Margot Marie-Catherine Camille Paget Marie Paret Stéphane Pons, photographer Rmn-Grand Palais (Réunion des Musées Nationaux), Paris all of the Museum’s staff: Alexia, Catherine, Claire, Karelle, Julien, Maxime, Mewen, Thierry, Véronique, and William and the members of the exhibition installation team and, finally, ‘Le Vieux Montmartre’, the Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie: Jean-Manuel Gabert, Chair Alain Larcher, Michèle Trante, Vice Chairs Éric Sureau, Treasurer Odette Borzic-Hatchadourian, Assistant Treasurer Catherine Rousseau, Secretary Daniel Rolland, Jean-Marc Tarrit, Honorary Chairs Isabelle Ducatez, Administrative Director

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Contents 9 Preface KLÉBER ROSSILLON

10 A Letter to my Father Sillans-la-Cascade, 26 April 2016 NICOLAS BUFFFET

12 Bernard Buffet Showed me the Sacred, Sacrificial Path of his Art Devoted to Redemptive Human Suffering, Solitude, and Death YANN LE PICHON

26 Stupefying Beginnings: the Critics Invade the Prodigy’s Privacy SYLVIE BUISSON

38 Bernard Buffet produced his engravings in a convivial atmosphere, in Montmartre SYLVIE BUISSON

46 Bernard Buffet’s Commitment to the Intimate Aesthetics of Solitude, Silence, and... Strangeness SASKIA OOMS

58 Bernard Buffet (1928-1999) His work was his life and death YANN LE PICHON

63 The zany parades of the Cirque Médrano 71 The Batignolles and the Butte: the genesis of his art 79 Traits for traits 85 Annabel, Annabel, Annabel: an eternal love 101 Fusional encounters: literature and theatre 109 Clean slates (‘À tables rases’) 117 Buffon’s loving bestiary 127 Still lifes resuscitated 143 Solitary walks 151 The Passion of Christ at his mother’s sides 155 A man at sea

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The Musée de Montmartre houses the ateliers at 12–14 Rue Cortot, which, at the turn of the twentieth century, were occupied by many artists. Montmartre has always been a centre of artistic creation, and the museum, which was formerly a veritable hub of artistic activity, is committed to transmitting this effervescence. Bernard Buffet (1928–1999) moved into 20 Rue Cortot—a stone’s throw from the museum—in 1989. The house provided him with a base in Paris when he was away from his home in the south of France. He bought it because it was near the Lacourière-Frélaut engraving atelier and kept the house until the end of his life. Buffet loved the district and its pleasant atmosphere away from the hubbub of the city of Paris. On the 70th anniversary of Bernard Buffet’s very first exhibition, the Musée de Montmartre is paying a special tribute to the artist from 18 October 2016 to 5 March 2017: ‘Bernard Buffet: An Intimate Portrait’. Curated by Yann le Pichon, author of a monograph on the painter, Sylvie Buisson, a specialist on the School of Paris, and Saskia Ooms, Head of Conservation at the Musée de Montmartre—and benefitting from the tremendous contribution of Nicolas Buffet, accompanied and advised by Jany Jansem—the exhibition’s thematic itinerary examines Bernard Buffet’s connections with Montmartre: from the Place Pigalle, where he was born in 1928, to the Batignolles district, where he grew up, and his house at 20 Rue Cortot, in which he lived for ten years. The exhibition’s eleven sections present works attesting to the artist’s multifaceted genius, the painter’s main personal interests, and the recurrent themes in his work: the zany parades of the Cirque Médrano, the artist’s loving bestiary, his deep interest in literature, his commitment and hard work in the Lacourière and Frélaut atelier in Montmartre, and his wife and muse Annabel. One hundred and fifty works—paintings, engravings, and photographs— have been brought together to paint an intimate portrait of one of the twentieth century’s most famous painters. The exhibition has benefited from the exceptional participation of Nicolas Buffet, the artist’s son, who has not only made very pertinent choices and provided invaluable advice, but also contributed works, most of which have never been exhibited before. In order to best illustrate the moving tribute that the Musée de Montmartre wishes to pay to the painter, documents, photographs, and family memorabilia will be presented alongside works from the Musée National d’Art Moderne (MNAM) in the Centre Pompidou, the Bibliothèque Kandinsky, the Musée de Grenoble, the Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary, and Outsider Art (LaM), the Maison Jean Cocteau, the Bernard Buffet Museum in Higashino (Japan), the Galerie de la Présidence, the Galerie Tamenaga, the Galerie Dil, the Galerie de Souzy, the Galerie Matignon, the Galerie AB, and private collections. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to these contributors for their participation in this project. KLÉBER ROSSILLON

President of the Musée de Montmartre 9

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A Letter to my Father NICOLAS BUFFET

Fig. 1. Nicolas, c. 1994 Graphite on paper, 48.5 × 31 cm Private collection

Sillans-la-Cascade, 26 April 2016

I remember the sparkle in your eyes and your smile, whose radiance gave me a glimpse of what you must have been like when, as a child, something filled you with wonder. Your thoughts were entirely focused on a house in Rue Cortot. A house located a stone’s throw away from the one you had recently bought. You told me that there was something really rather remarkable about this house, because it had once belonged to Suzanne Valadon, who had lived and practised her art there with her son Maurice Utrillo, whom you greatly admired. You told me some stories about the strong-willed characters who, during certain seasons, left their mark in the incredible history of this memorable place. I remember your almost childlike pride when you became, so to speak, the new neighbour of these renowned masters. Your excitement at being able to live in this district with its rich history was contagious when you spoke about your excursions at the crack of dawn: those moments when you wandered alone along the route that led to the Lacourière & Frélaut atelier—that much cherished ‘temple’ of engraving, into which you eventually channelled all your energy and devotion. And this devotion was a recurrent characteristic of all your work. In spring 2014, Yann le Pichon contacted me about a project to present an exhibition in the Musée de Montmartre. I have to say that the idea of exhibiting your works in this building, in which even the great Renoir once lived, appealed to me straight away. One visit and I was convinced it was a good idea. The building has not lost its soul, and when you walk inside it is a little like leafing through the pages of a book. A sort of compendium whose stories can boast of having served as a showcase for some gems. I then decided to give him some of the most appropriate works in my collection [fig. 1], and some objects that bear silent testimony to your life and work.


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I admit that I used this opportunity to give pride of place to our most beautiful Annabel. Your friend Luc Fournol will also be included in this celebration of your work. An entire room devoted to the very moving images he produced with his keen eye. In 2016, the City of Paris has finally decided to celebrate your work in the Musée d’Art Moderne. For the first time since 1958, your work will be exhibited in Paris on the walls of a museum that amply reflects its sheer extent and diversity. Part of this extensive oeuvre, which the general public loves so much and which has been exhibited only on very rare occasions, will now be available for viewing in autumn 2016. We have decided to hold the two exhibitions at the same time so that the general public can visit both the retrospective in the Musée d’Art Moderne and the more sentimental and personal exhibition in the Hôtel Demarne, which you so greatly cherished. Two diametrically opposed places … the emotional contrast will be all the more striking. The eclecticism and diversity of the subjects that you tirelessly tackled and very often transcended make it possible to present your work in many ways that always amaze the viewer. I am not an art historian and have no methodology; I can only let my instinct and admiration guide me—a ‘duet’ that is telling me that the exhibitions will definitely be of great interest to the visitors. I will handle all this interest, as I do each time, with all my love and the immense feeling of pride that being your son gives me. In 2016, both the City of Paris and the Musée de Montmartre will be celebrating your work. A much awaited celebration which, rest assured, will be like a new beginning in France. Your rebirth.


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Bernard Buffet Showed me the Sacred, Sacrificial Path of his Art Devoted to Redemptive Human Suffering, Solitude, and Death YANN LE PICHON

Fig. 2. Luc Fournol Chapel of Château L’Arc: ‘The Crucifixion’ and ‘Sarah’, 1961 Photograph, published in Annabel Buffet and Jean-Claude Lamy, Bernard Buffet, Secrets d’Atelier ( Bernard Buffet: The Secret Studio), Paris, 2004, p. 59

I am naturally hedonistic and optimistic, more of a sybarite than an ascetic, and more of an epicurean than a ‘Jansenist’, so for a long time I avoided taking any interest in Bernard Buffet’s works; the sense of desolation they convey, the melancholy nudes, the dramatic austerity, and the pathetic morbidity repulsed me, while taking me completely by surprise, which inevitably made me feel guilty because it seemed to me that his art forced me to confront my cowardliness and lack of perception, until the day when I actually met him in the flesh—and there was quite a lot of flesh, much to my surprise. This is how—almost in spite of myself, but not unwillingly—I found myself meeting him face-to-face in a very good Chinese restaurant in the district in which the gallery that belonged to Maurice Garnier was located. We were invited to dine there by Maurice—Buffet’s art dealer who had been selling his paintings and engravings for a long time. I instantly felt that I had bumped into him by chance because I had not consciously sought to meet him, which, as Montaigne believed (when evoking his friendship with La Boétie), was the right thing to do. Likewise, Picasso’s sculptures were made of odds and ends in order to challenge the prevailing academicism. Buffet had certainly gained weight and become more corpulent and larger in build since the first self-portraits, showing himself as a scrawny nude, which he presented in an exhibition to everyone in Paris. Shortly after the publication of my book Les Peintres du Bonheur, in order to better promulgate the book’s argument that, in the period between the 1848 Revolution and the Great War, the most significant developments in French painting took place in and revolved around inns and restaurants, dance halls, cabarets, pubs, and cafés-concerts—in certain famous places where some of the most inventive young masters (I had focused, in particular, on the Batignolles artists’ quarter and the Butte) met up, inspired one another, and liberated themselves from conventions, drinking strong absinthe and generous glasses of beer—I had succeeded in organising at Paris-Match (during the summer of 1984) a series of comparisons between the most remarkable landscape paintings and


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Stupefying Beginnings: the Critics Invade the Prodigy’s Privacy SYLVIE BUISSON

Why were his beginnings so stupefying? The critics were instantly aware of the potential of their discovery; they designated Buffet, whether he invited it or not, as the leading young painter; the press consecrated as many headlines and articles to him as for film stars. ‘France is being enthused by another B. B.’.1 ‘ … I endeavour to not think, in order to be’ he wrote to Pierre Descargues at the time, in July 1947; and, henceforth, that was how he coped with the invasive press. Today, it suffices to say how, after leaving art school and the devastation of the war, Buffet inspired the finest writers to put pen to paper and evoke the extent of the phenomenon [fig. 8]. Seventy years later, his reputation stands like a totem and the prodigy of the artistic effervescence of post-war Paris has not been tarnished. Eloquent critiques were an inherent—even if unsolicited—part of Buffet’s life. The critics’ reaction to the phenomenon Tall, modest, and fanciful, affecting even the toughest of critics, Buffet seemed to be a fragile being as he presented his work to the first juries and gracefully posed before his sombre, provocative, and irreverent—but oh so admirable—paintings! His waywardness was somewhat disconcerting, but his magisterial technique was amazing. Buffet managed to reconcile his epoch with figurative art, which had been decried for thirty years. His approach was inspired by Géricault and Courbet, inflaming the ardour of a superb painter who embraced large-format works, and his incredible productivity was more than enough to satiate the appetite of the press. Buffet was anything but an ephemeral phenomenon … he was a natural pro; and, almost as soon as he emerged on the artistic scene it was predicted that his success would be a lasting one.

Fig. 8. Denise Colomb Bernard Buffet, 1947 Photograph

The best bet In 1958, certain pragmatic people banked on his success. ‘The price of his pictures has skyrocketed from one year to the next,’ Willy Waltenier wrote in the summer of 1958 [fig. 11],2 ‘and, during the period 1949–1954, several major bankers decided that the best investment lay in buying the pictures of this young artist.’ Buffet was revered, without concession to decorative or right-minded imperatives.


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Bernard Buffet produced his engravings in a convivial atmosphere, in Montmartre SYLVIE BUISSON

Fig. 16. Luc Fournol In the Lacourière and Frélaut atelier, for Voyages Fantastiques aux États et Empires de la Lune et du Soleil (‘Fantastic journeys to the states and empires of the sun and moon’), by Joseph Foret, art publisher, 1958 Photograph

Lacourière, Frélaut, Buffet, and Montmartre are indissociable. The reason Bernard Buffet chose to live at 20 Rue Cortot in 1989 was because the team formed by Lacourière and the Frélaut brothers, and their associates and successors, was nearby and their atelier was within walking distance of the painter’s house. It was only a ten-minute walk to Rue Foyatier, a street that was essentially one long flight of steps, and here Buffet was truly in his element. At the beginning, in the 1950s, he would climb the two hundred and twenty grey granite steps until he reached the atelier, which opened directly onto one of the nine landings in Rue Foyatier and offered a magnificent panoramic view of the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur on one side and the Eiffel Tower on the other. He would then cheerfully enter the atelier of the master printer Roger Lacourière (1892–1966), who specialised in soft-ground etching: he had started out in 1929 by setting up his presses on the premises (Buffet was still an infant at that time) and moving into the Turkish Pavilion—more specifically its third floor—which housed the ‘Panorama de Jérusalem’, from the Exposition of 1900. The aura of the master printer matched the atelier’s beauty; the affable and passionate artisan Lacourière provided technical solutions for all the artists’ requirements, and he soon became quite indispensable; and each plate was in part his handiwork. For Bernard Buffet he was like a private magician who enabled him to achieve great things—things that were only made possible by collaborating with such a master. Indeed, Lacourière taught and generously divulged everything that was precious to him, namely his know-how and the science that his ancestors— his father and grandfather were also engravers—had passed on to him. In addition to this genius, he was also capable of selecting for each artist one of his very accomplished ‘artisans maison’, who was able to continually and closely work with each artist; there are so many factors that need to be taken into account in a métier that is full of surprises, such as having the right cloth, assessing the right consistency of the ink, and remembering everything. ‘If you’re going to do it, do it right!’ was Roger Lacourière’s habitual advice. The mise en abyme between artist and artisan was the foundation of his philosophy—an approach subsequently adopted by his associates, the Frélaut brothers.


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Bernard Buffet’s Commitment to the Intimate Aesthetics of Solitude, Silence, and... Strangeness SASKIA OOMS

‘Painting should not be confused with Politesse. The atomic age, the trip to the moon, and abstract art will never make a lot of difference to what I call “Painting”.’ ‘Rembrandt’s work is beautiful but sombre. Boucher’s works are cheerful but bad. “Great painting” has never made anyone laugh.’ ‘I don’t believe in inspiration, I’m just a hardworking man.’ ‘The face of the world is changing, but no one has ever surpassed Rembrandt, Delacroix, and Courbet. “Painting” is not a subject of discussion or analysis—rather, it is something one senses.’ BERNARD BUFFET, 19641

Fig. 21. Annabel, 1959 Oil on canvas, 195 × 165 cm Private collection

The quotations from Bernard Buffet leave little doubt as to the importance he attached to figurative painting, his rejection of abstract art, and his admiration for Rembrandt, Delacroix, and Courbet, in particular.2 Bernard Buffet had an extensive knowledge of nineteenth-century painting, and, according to his son Nicolas Buffet and Yann le Pichon, a friend of the artist, he knew the Louvre like the back of his hand. His work reflects this great culture of painting. How can one not be enthralled by the very unique aesthetics of Buffet’s painting? His eclectic and complex oeuvre is full of surprises; we shall focus on the style of his interior paintings, still lifes, his intimate portraits of Annabel, and urban landscapes, with the help of comparisons with works by other artists. In accordance with Charles Baudelaire’s fortuitous praise in his poem l’Hasard des arts,3 these comparisons reveal little about his sources of inspiration—and, as Buffet stated, he did not believe in inspiration—but do contribute to placing his work in the history of art. In 1943, at the age of fifteen, Bernard Buffet (1928–1999) took the competitive examination for admission to the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he entered the atelier of Professor Narbonne. In 1945, after the end of the war, Buffet suffered the trauma of his mother’s death from a brain tumour. He found solace in his painting. Three years later, he was awarded the ‘Prix de la Critique’ and this launched his career.4 Bernard Buffet painted what he saw around him. Pierre Descargues, one of the first art critics who took an interest in his work in 1946, wrote that Buffet’s work conveyed the post-war misery, anguish, and despair he experienced in his youth.5 The subjects of his work were


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Bernard Buffet (1928-1999) His work was his life and death YANN LE PICHON

Born at 7:30 a.m. on 10 July, 1928, at 3 Cité Malesherbes, near the Place Pigalle in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, to Blanche Colombe and her husband Charles Buffet (both of whose fathers were senior officers who fell on the field of honour in 1914 and 1915), who lived in the Batignolles district, Bernard was the much loved younger brother of Claude, who was born in 1923. His mother, who was very pious, wished to baptise the beautiful blond infant almost immediately [fig. 32]. After laying a rose at the feet of the statue of the Virgin Mary on the terrace, in keeping with his profession of faith (‘No, I’m not afraid of death! It depends on whether or not one is religious …’), Bernard Buffet committed suicide using a black plastic bag, at the age of 71, on 4 October 1999 in the afternoon, on the floor of his atelier in his bastide ‘La Baume’ near Tourtour (in the Haut-Var region). He probably recited his favourite prayer, which his mother had taught him: ‘Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the World Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer them. Amen (prayer written by Saint Bernard).’ His ashes were scattered on 15 December in the gardens of the magnificent Musée Bernard-Buffet, founded at the foot of Mount Fuji by Kiichiro Okano (1917–1995), whose son Mitsuyoshi read out the funeral oration in quite an upbeat way, all things considered, and even asserted: ‘You and my father will no doubt enjoy spending time together and talking to one another over a glass of wine, and making this hill blossom with your hearty laughter’ (sic). A requiem mass was held at St Peter’s Church in Montmartre by his parish priest, who told a packed congregation of representatives of the Académie Française—which was dominated by the stature of Maurice Druon—and ardent admirers that each time Bernard left his home in Rue Cortot to go to the Lacourière and Frélaut engraving atelier, he always lit a candle in the Chapel of the Virgin and knelt to say his prayers. Bernard Buffet sometimes said that, apart from the obvious fact that he continually produced drawings, engravings, and paintings, almost every thing else bored him (or, put more bluntly, ‘bored him stiff’) and that, indeed, he did not know how to do anything else (which is not quite true, as he loved reading). That is why he produced so many works and tackled so many different themes, and repeatedly used his schematic 58

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styles; the same can be said of many great artists, Picasso being the most obvious example. Maurice Garnier (his ‘garde-manger’ or dedicated manager of his assets and expenses, which were sometimes ostentatious) estimated, if I am not mistaken, that his entire oeuvre comprised at least eight thousand works, and I do not think that includes his engravings. This means that the account of his life is completely dominated by his work. It would be difficult to scale it down, in the same way that dwarfed varieties of trees and shrubs are grown in Japan. The story of his life is, in fact, that of his painting, because he became involved with art at an early age, to the point that he devoted the very essence of his being and his life to it, right up until his death, which he evoked, in extremis, in a series of morbid works inspired by the danses macabres of the end of the Middle Ages and La Ballade des pendus (‘Ballad of the hanged’) by the poet François Villon: ‘My fellow brothers, who live after us [sic], Don’t let your hearts turn hard against our sins.’ An appeal for pity. After referring to Buffon’s definition of style—‘style is the man himself’—in order to apply it to Buffet in my monograph, I read a definition of Buffet’s style by an ‘art writer’, who caricatured it in a simplistic way: ‘His instantly recognisable style is his signature’. Well, I am now tempted to challenge Buffon’s definition—brush against the grain and invert his words— because to a lesser extent than Picasso, who was very ‘polygenic’, ‘polymorphic’, and furthermore polygamous (whereas he was sexually polyvalent), Buffet adopted a variety of styles that developed in his work because of his incredible ability to learn (in order to divert himself away from his narcissistic and somewhat masochistic monotony) from the works of great painters whose skill he admired. Jany Jansem recently informed me that Bernard made this rather surprising confession: ‘I wanted to show paintings that I did not know how to create’. And yet, he did create them. He surpassed himself through his desire to transcend himself: so yes, in response to the ‘art writer’s’ definition, an artist can borrow styles from other artists to make his art more universal. I am thinking, for example, of his very fine boldly brushed landscapes, produced in the years 1973–1976, which give us the reassuring impression that we are looking at works reminiscent of the pre-Impressionists, the first Barbizon painters, Courbet, and sometimes also Vlaminck. This is not an ‘imitative realism’, but rather a ‘selective realism’, as Aragon—who praised him for ‘summarising’ it so well— admiringly defined it. I would go further and use the word ‘assuming’. As it has been said that Bernard was influenced by the existentialist

Fig. 32. Claude Buffet Bernard Buffet on the beach of Saint-Cast, 1936 Photograph


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Luc Fournol ‘A clown represents fear and his face is painted. Man does too, although it’s less visible, but dirtier and unfortunately he can do very little about it!’, Paris, 1968 Photograph


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Denise Colomb Portrait of Bernard Buffet at the Counterof Café Constant in Paris, 1950 Photograph


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The Batignolles and the Butte: the genesis of his art

In the 1980s, Bernard Buffet represented many views of Montmartre. He moved there in 1989 and in that year painted a view of the very famous Maison Rose, which was not very far from his house.

Cat. 10. The Maison-Rose in Montmartre, 1989 Oil on canvas, 114 Ă— 146 cm Galerie Tamenaga, Paris


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Daniel Frasnay Château l’Arc, c. 1960 Photograph

TRAITS FOR TRAITS Buffet BAT-230816 QUADRI.indd 79

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Luc Fournol ‘A few carefree moments in a life otherwise devoted to work. Bernard never realised how elegant and handsome he was. Seductively wrapped in solitude and modesty—that’s how I knew and loved him’, Château l’Arc, 1958 Photograph, published in Annabel Buffet and Jean-Claude Lamy, Bernard Buffet, Secrets d’Atelier ( Bernard Buffet: The Secret Studio, translated by Deke Dusinberre, Flammarion, 2004), p. 22


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Loomis Dean Bernard Buffet sitting on the stage of Françoise Sagan’s ballet Le Rendez-Vous Manqué (‘The Broken Date’), in February 1958 Photograph


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Luc Fournol Bernard Buffet Working on Sculptures Created for his Exhibition ‘Le Muséum de Bernard Buffet’, Château l’Arc, 1963 Photograph, published in Annabel Buffet and Jean-Claude Lamy, Bernard Buffet, Secrets d’Atelier ( Bernard Buffet: The Secret Studio, translated by Deke Dusinberre, Flammarion, 2004), p. 65


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François Pagès (for Paris Match), ‘I thought I would paint pictures that could be placed in the middle of a room and viewed from all sides. They’re a sort of series of “flying” paintings. This is how the “Les Insectes” series developed. They’re a sort of incidental development in my painting style.’ Château l’Arc, 1967 Photograph


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Luc Fournol Bernard Buffet Working in his Atelier on the ‘ Bouquet of Flowers’ Series, Château l’Arc, 1962 Photograph


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Luc Fournol Bernard Buffet Painting, Promenade Provençale, Tourtour, La Baume, 1993 Photograph, published in Annabel Buffet and Jean-Claude Lamy, Bernard Buffet, Secrets d’atelier ( Bernard Buffet: The Secret Studio, translated by Deke Dusinberre, Flammarion, 2004), p. 140

SOLITARY WALKS Buffet BAT-230816 QUADRI.indd 143

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Luc Fournol Bernard Buffet Standing Before the Pietà, in the chapel of Château l’Arc, 1961 Photograph


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Annabel Buffet Bernard Buffet on La Lélie in Greece, 1995 Photograph

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