The painter depicts himself here at the age of 28, at work, with his sleeves rolled up. The position of his left hand placed next to his heart certainly refers to Dürer’s famous self-portrait, a painter Bernard Buffet held in great esteem. In all his self-portraits, Bernard Buffet depicts himself as he sees himself, with method and often, as here, with his gaze turned towards the outside world or sometimes with an enigmatic smile as in Autoportrait au fond blanc painted the previous year. It is interesting to note that Bernard Buffet painted directly onto canvases nailed to the wall: the easels and canvases that appear in his self-portraits do not thus reflect his work method but act rather as symbols of his condition as an artist.
One of the most moving aspects of this work, beyond its stylistic and formal aspects, is its dedication to Pierre Bergé. This introspective self-portrait which allowed Bernard Buffet to place himself within the great tradition of art history is thus also a touching testimony to a creative and passionate relationship which left a lasting impression on the life of both men: "We did indeed live in the continual complicity of every moment." Pierre Bergé later recalled in interview (Jérôme Coignard, Bernard Buffet : Les années 1950, entretien avec Pierre Bergé, Paris, 2016, p. 27).
In 1958, Autoportrait au fond noir was among the works exhibited at the famous retrospective at the Galerie Charpentier whose success (over 100 000 visitors) provoked a riot that definitively established the reputation of the young painter.
"These are simply the paintings of our life together, the paintings he gave to me. [...] they have never left me since those days."
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