The cautionary tale of Bernard Buffet, once beloved by Picasso’s children, whose work is just beginning to receive reconsideration in France. A popular figure in day sales, The Independent tells the backstory on his career:
In 1955, he was chosen by 100 critics as the most impressive young painter in the world. In 1956, he was given a spread in Paris Match in which he was presented as the “young millionaire painter”.
Maurice Garnier is a Paris gallery owner and a friend of Buffet until the artist died in 1999. He still has exclusive rights to trade in Buffet paintings. M. Garnier believes it was Buffet’s lightning success and riches, just after the Second World War, which helped to turn the art establishment against him.
“He sold too well,” M. Garnier said. “He made a lot of money. He lived in an ostentatious way. The powers that be hated him for all that.” Buffet incurred, above all, the enmity of two of the great cultural figures of post-war France. The first was Picasso; the second was André Malraux, the writer who became President Charles de Gaulle’s minister for culture in 1959. Picasso would enter Paris galleries and stare at Buffet canvasses for hours, sometimes glaring in silent hatred, sometimes telling visitors how much he hated what he saw before him. Malraux also detested Buffet. M. Perier believes Picasso influenced Malraux, who knew little about art, but he says the culture minister’s motives for bad-mouthing Buffet were also partly political or art-political. [ . . . ]
Buffet also made another powerful enemy, or at least alienated someone who might have protected, and boosted, his career and reputation. In the 1950s, Buffet, then a homosexual, was the lover of Pierre Bergé, the man who later became the lover and business partner of the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. In 1958, Buffet had a spat with Bergé over his new friendship with the then debutant Yves Saint Laurent. Buffet took up instead with a young woman. Perier believes Berge would have reconciled the art establishment with Buffet if the young lovers had not fallen out. M. Garnier goes further and says Buffet attracted the enmity of several powerful gay figures in the art world because he switched his sexual orientation.
Bernard Buffet: Return of the Poser (The Independent)