This work is recorded in the Maurice Garnier Archives.
Grand hibou et petit duc was painted in 1988, a time during which Buffet had achieved great artistic renown in Paris. Buffet had begun to achieve national acclaim by the beginning of the 1950s, and in 1955 he was voted one of the greatest post-war artists in France by the art review Connaissance des Arts. A predominantly figurative artist, Buffet developed a distinctive and unmistakable style depicting highly stylized figures and objects with strong, expressive black lines and flattened, bold color. In 1971 the French State awarded him the Légion d'Honneur, and in 1974 he was elected to join the Académie des Beaux-Arts.
The present work depicts two owls—a “grand hibou,” or big owl, and a “petit duc,” or little horned owl. Traditionally, the owl has symbolized the attribute of Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom and craft. Here, the artist paints the two owls using very few colors—browns, whites and yellows—and it is his signature expressive black lines which bring the owls to life.