The Invention of the Modern Mega-artist
The extraordinary story of French artist Bernard Buffet. In the 1950s he was more famous than Picasso, more glamorous than Roger Vadim, and more celebrated than Brigitte Bardot. But then the art establishment who made him, destroyed him.
It is said that asphyxiation brings on a state of hallucinatory intoxication... in which case the 71-year-old artist who lay in his sprawling Provencal villa died happy. In the early afternoon of Monday October 4 1999, wracked with Parkinson's disease, and unable to paint after breaking his wrist, Bernard Buffet calmly placed a plastic bag over his head, taped it tight around his neck and patiently waited the few minutes it took for death to arrive.
Bernard Buffet was the first artist of the television and the jet age. As the first of the so-called Fabulous Five (Francoise Sagan, Roger Vadim, Brigitte Bardot and Yves Saint Laurent) he was a leader of the cultural revolution that seemed to forge a new France from the shattered remains of a discredited and demoralized country. While still in his twenties he had a Rolls Royce, a chateau, an island, high society at his feet and a glittering future ahead. Yet his extraordinary fall from grace was engineered by the very establishment that created him. Once hailed as a genius he was later shunned as a joke. Today, almost 70 years after he first shot to fame as a 20 year old prodigy hailed as a successor to Picasso, critical opinion remains sharply divided on the reputation of a controversial painter.
Rich in incident Buffet’s remarkable story is played out against the backdrop of the beau monde of the 1950s and 1960s in locations as diverse as St Tropez, Tokyo, Paris, Dallas, St Petersburg and New York, before coming to its miserable conclusion alone in his studio.
With the cooperation of the Buffet estate, this is the first in-depth biography of the artist to be published in English, and Foulkes has secured unique interviews and access to the Buffet legacy. Buffet’s story is an allegory for the corrosive commercial investment value of art markets today. His paintings are currently rocketing in value as he is rediscovered.
“splendidly unstuffy… first class”
“[a] fascinating account”
Bill Prince, Telegraph Luxury
“[a] thoroughly researched account of a life tinged with sadness, spent mostly in the studio, compulsively painting”
“Foulkes is really good at, the thing with which this book is happily stuffed, is snappy storytelling…[The] years of excess provide the book with its most entertaining stretches.”
The Sunday Times
“Whatever your opinion of the work of the prolific French expressionist Bernard Buffet, it’s not hard to be seduced by the premise of Nick Foulkes’ new biography, Bernard Buffet: The Invention of the Modern Mega-Artist.”
“Foulkes has drowned himself in the subject and done some impressive research… He always has interesting things to say…bold and stylish.”
“A timely reappraisal of Buffet’s work and a haunting account of a glittering career that ended in tragedy”
“Foulkes recounts, with skill and a sense of fun… especially good at evoking Fifties and Sixties French culture, with all the cigarette smoke, beautiful people and Paris-Match style is deserves”
“A storyteller beyond compare”
“a riveting read”
“A fascinating portrait of French cultural life in the second half of the 20th century, and of the contemporary art market, told with aplomb by Foulkes.”
“[Nicholas Foulkes] has a sure eye and ear for the nuances of hierarchy in both Euro-trash’s sumps and the art world. His book is diligently researched, elegantly written and well-paced. He does period colour and local colour with discretion and seldom dramatizes incidents”
“A compelling read”
French Property News
“Art lovers will enjoy this book, so too will those keen to gain access to a long-lost world of creative glamour”
“[a] lively biography… the book will surely go some way to reinvigorating an interest in the artist and his better work”
Country & Town House magazine
“Foulkes deserves much credit for trawling through so much French archive material and for allowing himself to become so obsessed with his subject that he could extract riveting detail and exclusive interviews… art lovers will enjoy this book, so too will those keen to gain access to a long- lost world of creative glamour”
France Today magazine
“an absorbing story”
The Catholic Herald
“A compelling and detailed study of a controversial painter.”
“Foulkes uses his unique perspective to introduce Buffet, a former darling of the rich and famous, to today’s public.”
Ravenel International Art Group