The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the Galerie Maurice Garnier.
Sale: Tajan, Paris, December 16, 1998, lot 84 Private Collection, Europe (acquired at the above sale and sold: Christie's, London, June 29, 2000, lot 357) Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Yann Le Pichon, Bernard Buffet, 1943-1961, Paris, 1986, no. 332, illustrated p. 358
In the dynamic environment of post-war Paris, Buffet, a young painter brimming with talent, received widespread attention from art circles and society alike. At only eighteen years old, he was named by the authoritative French magazine Connaissance des arts to their list of “Ten Important Post-War Artists.” Buffet made a name for himself at a very young age, and his dazzling brilliance influenced the styles of the times and created a commercial phenomenon. But throughout the ups and downs of his career, he remained independent in thought and action, persisted in his core beliefs and never surrendered to the pressures of popular opinion. At a time in which abstract art was widely popular, this bold, uninhibited and talented artist never strayed from figurative expressive methods. It could be suggested that he saved the post-war art scene from succumbing to homogeneity.
The outlines of the architectural elements, accentuated with Buffet’s famous black lines, emphasize the somber tone of the present work. Buffet uses nimble brushwork, highlighting his extraordinarily descriptive ability negating the need for drafts. His lines express a style that is both of the times and also highly individual, as described by the art historian Alexander Roob: “Buffet is a fanatic of line. The lines of his brush 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).
Buffet’s rendering of this square in the 1st arrondissement calls to mind seminal works by Buffet’s forbearers, such as Canaletto (see fig. 1). Indeed, Buffet was well-versed in the art historical canon. Yet in this early work, he imbues the image with the melancholy of post-war Europe, thereby becoming a painter of the moment. Whereas Canaletto’s Venetian squares are inhabited by figures, Buffet’s La Place Vendôme is conspicuously devoid of any. Thereby, Buffet seems to speak to his own anxieties and isolation within a society still finding its footing after World War II.
Membership in the Académie des Beaux-arts is the highest honor that the French official can bestow upon an artist. Bernard Buffet became the youngest person to receive this honor in 1974. Buffet's work has recently undergone a profound critical renewal, especially following the important retrospective exhibitions devoted to him at the Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Musée Marmottan in 2016.
The canvas is not lined. The impasto is lively. There is pigment separation in the darkest pigments. There is craquelure in the white pigments as a result of thick paint application, and does not deter from the overall integrity of the image. There is some gold gilding that has rubbed off from frame at upper left and lower right edges. Under UV light, a stroke of inpainting is visible in the upper left quadrant at the top of the building. 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. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.