Bernard Buffet - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Tuesday, November 29, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “It was…[the]...religious level of ceremony, tradition, flamboyant colour and sombre gravity that had attracted him to the corrida, and inspired him to produce his remarkable series of paintings, and to return again and again during the 1960s to the subject of the torero.”
    — Nicholas Foulkes

    Born in Paris in 1928, Bernard Buffet is internally renowned as one of the most distinguished French painters of the 20th Century, celebrated for his figurative oeuvre that is characterised by its graphic, linear aesthetic rendered in a sombre palette. Exhibiting a talent for art at a young age, Buffet was accepted into the prestigious Paris École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in 1943, at the mere age of fifteen years old. He soon received impressive critical acclaim and was honoured with the Prix de la Critique award just five years later. Whilst the development of Buffet’s art practice occurred during the prevalence of Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism, the young artist defended representational art and came to be known as an active member of the anti-abstraction group, L’homme Témoin (the Witness-Man).


    Featured in the 1966 exhibition La Corrida at Galerie Maurice Garnier in Paris, the 1960 painting Torero Rose is a stunning portrait from Buffet’s prolific body of works, hailing from the period that marks the peak of the artist’s critical and creative success. Rendered in angular, sharp black outlines, a bullfighter confronts the viewer from the centre of the composition, who is instantly recognisable as among Buffet’s most enduringly favourite and popular subject matters.


    Footage of a bullfighter


    As a prevalent theme amongst artists and writers of the 20th Century, the bullfighter was a subject Buffet returned to numerous times during his career. As Ernest Hemingway aptly described, ‘I know no modern sculpture…that is in any way the equal of the sculpture of modern bullfighting…If it were permanent, it could be one of the major arts, but it is not and so it finishes with whoever makes it…It is an art that deals with death and death wipes it out.’i


    The sight of the slender protagonist standing tall in his richly adorned light pink capote de paseo (ceremonial entrance cape) is both sumptuous and alluring in Torero Rose, as he seems to almost pop out against the amber background and into the viewer’s space. The way his cape spreads out alludes to the intense theatricality of bullfighting, whilst at the same time, presents the fighter in an elegant, poised, and dignified manner. Created during a time of unsettlement and anger in the post-war world, whilst Torero Rose is a commanding portrait within its own right, there is a haunting aspect to the painting that reflects the psychologically complex context behind its conception.


    Edouard Manet, A Matador, 1866-1867   Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

    Edouard Manet, A Matador, 1866-1867 
    Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

    Encompassing portraiture, landscapes, still life and historical and religious subjects, Buffet’s varied and extensive body of work had already garnered him widespread popularity and acclaim during his lifetime, including dozens of international exhibitions and honours such as being inducted into the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1974.


    His works are housed in numerous institutional collections, including the Tate Modern, London ; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the honorary Bernard Buffet Museum which opened in Tokyo in 1973. In 2016, a major retrospective of the artist’s work was hosted at the Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris. Museum Director at the time, Fabrice Hergott remarked: “Buffet has painted hundreds of masterpieces. His oeuvre is one of the greatest of the 20th century.”ii


    i Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon, New York, 1932

    ii Fabrice Hergott, quoted in Nazanin Lankarani, ‘Buffet: A Life of Success, Rejection and Now a Celebration’, The New York Times, 20 October 2016, online.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Maurice Garnier, Paris
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Galerie Maurice Garnier, La Corrida, 1966



Torero rose

signed and dated 'Bernard Buffet 60' lower center
oil on canvas
130.3 x 97.5 cm. (51 1/4 x 38 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1960, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Maurice Garnier.

Full Cataloguing

HK$1,600,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for HK$3,528,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+852 2318 2027

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2022