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Details & Cataloguing

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Bernard Buffet
1928 - 1999
VENISE, SANTA MARIA DELLA SALUTE
signed Bernard Buffet and dated 59 (upper right)
oil on canvas
89 by 116cm., 35 by 45 5/8 in.
Painted in 1959.
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The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Maurice Garnier.

Provenance

Sale: Piasa, Paris, 20th June 2008, lot 26
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner

Catalogue Note

Executed only a year after the artist’s lover, Pierre Bergé left him for the young fashion designer and Christian Dior’s successor, Yves Saint Laurent, this deeply sombre work exudes a nostalgia for Bergé and Buffet’s time in the Venice Biennale and the merriment, which accompanied it. In his biography on the artist, Nicholas Foulkes writes, ‘[Venice] was the perfect environment for Buffet; rigidly figurative, and possessed of an immense artistic culture, he regularly astonished serious art world professionals with the depth of his knowledge and the sheer amount of abstruse art history trivia he was capable of retrieving from inside his angular head’ (Nicholas Foulkes, Bernard Buffet: The Invention of the Modern Mega-Artist, London, 2016, p. 124). Venice represented a joyful and successful time for the artist. At a time when the Biennale was dominated by French taste (at the expense of visiting nations), Buffet was given the prestigious role of representing France. Buffet and Bergé greatly enjoyed their time in Venice, regularly arranging to meet with the French delegation of the Venice Biennale in the Piazza San Marco, tables livened with jovial conversation and plenty to drink. This joyous period came to an end in 1958. As Bergé recalls, ‘I had un coup de foudre, as we say in French, for Bernard Buffet in 1950, and I had a second coup de foudre for Yves Saint Laurent in 1958. Voilà. And I left, yes, I left’ (quoted in Ibid.) Painted in 1959, the outlines of the architectural elements of Venise, Santa Maria della Salute accentuated with Buffet’s famous black lines reflect the solemnity of the artist’s own personal circumstances. The work is however bestowed with an expressive and highly individual style. Buffet’s lines as described by art historian Alexander Roob, ‘fully incorporate the Eastern elements of French modernism, the influence of Egyptian hieroglyphics of the expressionism of Georges Rouault and Alfred Manessier, and line sketching of modern illustration” (Alexander Roob, “Bernard Buffet: Terrain Vague—Dangerous terrain,” in Der Spiegl, November 30, 1960, translated from German).

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