This work is recorded in the Bernard Buffet Archives at the Galerie
Bernard Buffet was an important French artist who championed a
highly original, graphic painting style, characterised by sharp black
lines and bright, flat colours. He started his artistic career in Paris, enrolling at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in 1943. Shortly afterwards, in 1947, the Musee National d'Art Moderne in Paris bought Nature morte au poulet , one of the artist's early works, placing Buffet among the artists officially endorsed by the State. In the 1950s, Buffet consolidated his unmistakable style, working on different subjects in series, each year presenting a new theme at his recurrent solo exhibition in Paris, for instance in 1996 when he devoted a whole series of paintings to Beijing.
Painted in 1964, Les Pavots represents a teeming bouquet of poppies, capturing the characteristic wide corolla and black pistil of the flowers. While earlier in his career, Buffet had depicted sparse, rather desolate bouquets of flowers, in Les Pavots the artist gave in to joyful colours and a rich composition, in which the vase seems to shrink under the weight of its blooming blossoms. By contrasting the vase of flowers with a white background, Buffet gave further emphasis to the flowers' colourful power and sculptural presence in space. Before Buffet, flowers had attracted the attention of several eminent Western modern artists, such as Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh and Marc Chagall. Just like Buffet with Les Pavots, flowers allowed those artists to experiment with beaming colours, experimental brushwork and textured surfaces. In Les Pavots, Buffet captured the subject with incredibly sculptural brushstrokes: the petals of the flowers are described through single, flat and broad application of paint, which seems to be arranged on the canvas in three dimensions, successfully suggesting the wide open buds of the poppies. Black, short dabs of paint convey the furry, wide style and pistil of the flower. The leaves and branches of the bouquet, moreover, are rendered through dense and quick brushing, which enhances the vivid presence of the subject. Evocatively depicting the colourful glare and textured effects of a bouquet of poppies, Les Pavots captures the expressive power of Buffet's unique style.