In these paintings, Buffet’s birds take on a scale that is transcends natural proportion such that they appear to be unaware of the female presence and stray onto the canvas seemingly by accident. These bold and bewildering new canvases ignited interest for Buffet, and despite calls by the French paper Le Figaro for the exhibition to be closed, the city of Paris, for two months, formed queues that snaked 100 metres along the Avenue Matignon.
Whilst the public attempted to invoke a classical precedence for these works, likening the scene to the legend of Leda and the Swan, the apparent randomness of Les Oiseaux forces the viewer to react individually to his paintings rather than be led by the artist’s intellectual conclusions. This is coupled by the artist’s declaration that, ‘I don’t think my œuvre is academic paintings. I never think about paintings. I only paint them. I am not the type of person who thinks carefully. I am an emotional and natural human being’ (quoted in Nicholas Foulkes, Bernard Buffet: The Invention of the Modern Mega-Artist, London, 2016, p. 233).
Nicholas Foulkes further describes the fundamental versatility of Buffet’s birds: ‘In the works’ disturbing sense of menace and their controlled eroticism, it is inevitable that today, like some beautifully painted Rorschach test, they prompt an association with another surreal and frightening work of the 1960s involving menacing winged creatures and an idealised representation of a certain type of sexually desirable woman. The Birds of Alfred Hitchcock, starring the archetypal Hitchcock blonde Tippi Hedren, was released three years after The Birds of Bernard Buffet.’ (Ibid., p. 233).
Painted in 1995, three and a half decades after Les Oiseaux, Busard is a poignant work that reiterates the enduring importance of birds in Buffet’s œuvre.
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