The Rolls Series by Bernard Buffet

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Bernard Buffet’s art is absolutely timeless. Far from the abstract avant-gardists of his day, completely disconnected with contemporary works that worry too much about conforming and being liked, Buffet’s work has the audacity of great artistic production. Born in Paris in 1928, Bernard Buffet left school for museums in 1945; he was already renowned by age 20. His first paintings depicted the streets of Paris like no one else; with a pointed and sharp stroke, creating a lugubrious but lively atmosphere, Buffet’s style goes beyond the definition of figurative paintings. Somewhere between expressionist descendance and the prefiguration of pop art, his paintings entered the scene.

In an era where the art world was obsessed with abstract, Buffet’s work was a bull in a china shop. A popular painter, his style left critiques flabbergasted: “Horribly beautiful” or “magnificently ugly”… No matter since alongside his companion Pierre Bergé, the artist would become the art world’s first pop star. Starting in the 50s, they got a bike, then a moped, then a 2CV, a used Jaguar, then a Rolls, then finally they got a castle. Barely 30 and at the height of his celebrity, the artist who didn’t know how to drive rolled around in a Rolls Royce. At the wheel was his chauffer Joseph. A man of money perhaps, but Bernard Buffet was a man of taste first and foremost: “Money only interests me to the extent that it gives me my peace of mind (…) it can isolate me from the monstrous people that surround us,” he explained.

His main enemy was abstract art, grave digger of “a work’s immediate intelligence” in his own words. And so Bernard Buffet got down to it starting in the 70s, devoting himself entirely to his art within his various properties. “Picasso’s successor” would open up to various universes: corridas, Japanese culture, scenes of daily life, urban or rural landscapes, but also automobiles. Bernard Buffet dedicated hundreds of his works to Rolls Royces. He would paint several, always with an elongated stroke, anguished but sublime. In 1956, Paris Match would publish an article showing him within his magnificent Manimes property, hidden away in the Montmorency Forest, with his gleaming Rolls Royce Phantom IV. This Rolls would eclipse him; the art world was unable to grasp the subtlety of this aristocratic apparatus.

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