Lot 36
  • 36

BERNARD BUFFET | Autoportrait sur fond noir, 1956

100,000 - 150,000 EUR
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  • Bernard Buffet
  • Autoportrait sur fond noir, 1956
  • 130,9 x 97 cm; 51 1/2  x 38 1/4  in.
signed Bernard Buffet and dated 56 upper right; dated Le 25 Mai 1956, dedicated A Pierre Bergé and signed Bernard Buffet on the reverse; oil on canvas


Pierre Bergé, Paris (gift from the artist)


Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Cent tableaux de 1944 à 1958 par Bernard Buffet, 1958, no. 98, illustrated in the catalogue
Manosque, Giono-Buffet, une recherche de la Pureté, 1995
Paris, Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint-Laurent
Paris, Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Rétrospective Bernard Buffet, 2016-17, illustrated in the catalogue on the cover and p. 117
Saint-Rémy de Provence, Musée Estrine, Bernard Buffet, la collection Pierre Bergé, 2018


Jean Giono, Bernard Buffet, Paris, 1956, illustrated p. 18
Jérôme Coignard, Bernard Buffet, Les années 1950, Entretien avec Pierre Bergé, Paris, 2016, no. 1, illustrated p. 6


Please contact the Impressionist and Modern Art Department for the condition report for this lot.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The first painting by Bernard Buffet to be exhibited was a self-portrait in 1946 at the exhibition Salon des Moins de Trente Ans at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Bernard Buffet was 18 years old and had been taking classes at the School of Fine Arts, but he was never to go back there. The theme of the self-portrait appears throughout his career. From 1948, with the unconditional support of Emmanuel David and of Maurice Garnier, the young painter devoted himself to what was to be a swift and brilliant career. Autoportrait sur fond noir was painted ten years after his first exhibition and represents the traditional posture of the artist at his easel. Bernard Buffet drew upon the great figures of the history of painting, his artistic culture was vast with many references to the old masters. 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."

Pierre Bergé