Still Life with Butterfly

Bernard Buffet (1928 - 1999)

Oil on Canvas, Buffet
Size (inches): 25 (h) x 19 (w) inches
Size (cm): 63.5 (h) x 48.3 (w) cm

Bernard Buffet was born in Paris in 1928, spending most of his life working in France. He is known for his expressionist paintings above all, but he was also a deft producer of lithography, engraving, sculpture, book illustration, and set design. Buffet’s body of work exceeds 8,000 paintings and prints. His work is held in many prestigious collections worldwide from the Vatican to Paris’s Museum of Modern Art and Pompidou, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and the Tate in London. Buffet’s work depicts the sheer brutality and existentialist mindset of post-war Europe. His figures are often angular and emotionless. The melancholic expressionist tone of his work has often been likened to painters Francis Gruber and Georges Rouault.

Buffet reflected the modern Parisian cultural imagination; his distinctive style and subject matter illustrate a generation trying to cope with the horrors of the world wars. His paintings are melancholy and solitary, yet they seem to communicate a unity in human emotional suffering. Although frequently viewed as heavy and foreboding, there is also a level of delicacy in Buffet’s work. His style is defined by dry, angular lines that reveal buildings and bodies, which are often elongated and emaciated. Buffet regularly depicted the city of Paris itself—traditionally portrayed as lively and colourful—in a hard and lifeless manner. He was also one of the first artists to depict Paris itself in a cubist style, but eventually he became a member of the realist art group l’Homme-Témoin in pursuit of his social realist aesthetic. It is possible the sheer expense of paints was the reason for his sparing use of paint on the canvas and his emphasis on drawing; and he used very little colour, working primarily in grey, black, and green.


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