Lot 120
  • 120


250,000 - 350,000 GBP
249,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Bernard Buffet
  • Toréador
  • signed Bernard Buffet and dated 58 (towards upper right)
  • oil on canvas


Private Collection (acquired before 1961)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1981


Tokyo, National Museum of Western Art (on loan 1961-73)

Catalogue Note

Exuding a visceral power and strength, Toréador was painted in 1958, when Bernard Buffet was at the peak of his critical and creative success. During this halcyon period of widespread acclamation for the artist, Buffet was firmly established as one of the most successful and celebrated artists in France. That year, The New York Times Magazine included Buffet in their selection of ‘France’s Fabulous Young Five’, alongside Yves Saint Laurent and Brigitte Bardot, and the first retrospective of his work was held at Galerie Charpentier, Paris and met with critical approval. This zenith in his career coincided with a period of personal contentment: in December of 1958 he married his long-term love Annabel Schwob, with whom he would have three children.

The private and professional success of the artist in 1958 appeared to have a bearing on his output: the present work combines the striking visual aesthetic for which Buffet was known with a vibrant colour palette not so apparent in his more immediate post-war works, in which abound scrawny nude men and women, and tables set with time-ravaged carcasses and barren plates. In the present work, by contrast, rich folds of drapery in bright patterned hues envelop the Toréador, who stands proud against a sky-blue background. The Toréador as a subject – a symbolic embodiment of male resilience and showmanship - is one that Buffet would continue to return to from this year onwards, and it became one of his most significant recurring themes. The subject of the bullfight was of abiding interest for artists and writers during the early part of the Twentieth Century, with Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway – both titans of their respective fields – in particular bringing the sport to wider public attention due to their fascination with the theme. Buffet’s treatment of the subject evokes the noble historical associations of bullfighting, with the proud bearing of the Toréador alluding to the distinguished past of the sport, which was traditionally considered the preserve of royalty and nobility. Impressive in both scope and scale, the present work stands as a commanding example of a subject which was of paramount importance and interest for the artist.