TV documentary: Bernard Buffet

Updated on 20 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

9 November 2016. Another glimpse of figurative painter Bernard Buffet (1928-1999, France) after a short view when starting Painting 1 (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). There was a great German-language documentary on TV (ARTE F, 2015) a few days ago on the occasion of the opening of an exhibition (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2016), not only a documentary of Buffet’s life, but also a subtle analysis of the conflicting forces exerted on any working artist.
Buffet’s choice of readily accessible subjects derived from the hard life after the war touched the deeply injured childrens’ souls of a mass audience (as also his son explains towards the end of the documentary), who felt a healing healing power radiating from his work. In post-war Paris Buffet quickly rose to celebrity status. Apparently his commercial success was mostly derived from his unique brushmarks, which gave his work a great value of recognition and thus value on the art market. When his incredible success took off, he could not resist living a life in luxury and so his subjects, derived from poverty and distress, suddenly lost some of their authenticity (or in the words of his partner in early life, Pierre Bergé, “he scorched his wings”). At the same time, the art critics never forgave the combination of scandal and commercialism born on a “branded” style of painting, which in their eyes acted to trivialize the special status of artists – something which has become not only acceptable, but is even expected from artists living today, as is explained in the documentary. But also, and much more important for this rejection by the expert audience, the art world moved towards abstraction, radically and unforgivingly breaking with representative painting, while at the same time Buffet entered a phase of rediscovering great traditions of art history and actively rejected the new development. Interestingly, Buffet’s commercial success remained unbroken and during the 1970s Japan became a new centre of admiration for Buffet’s work, including his own museum created by an art-loving Japanese banker, and a new interest by Buffet himself in Asia. Today his work is in the process of being rediscovered in Europe, because, as is explained by the curator of a 2008 Berlin exhibition, only art that disturbs is here to stay and it is only now that it is recognized how pop art would never have existed without the initiating spark provided by Bernard Buffet.


ARTE F (2015) bernard Buffet. Der Wilde Maler [TV documentary] [online]. ARTE F. Available at: [Accessed 20 March 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Artist Research: Bernard Buffet [blog] [online]. Andrea Lacher-Bryk, Hallein, 3 April. Available at: [Accessed 9 November 2016]