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Bernard Buffet, La plage, 1956, oil on canvas, 44 7/8 × 76 3/4".

Bernard Buffet

Venus

Bernard Buffet, La plage, 1956, oil on canvas, 44 7/8 × 76 3/4".

Two admissions are needed to make the case for Bernard Buffet, a painter so long considered minor that his work is—or was—unredeemable even in the realm of camp taste: First, one must accept that painting is a serious vehicle for artistic expression; second, one must admit that anything sufficiently seen eventually comes to sit normatively in the eye. 

My 1950s triangulated between New York, Chicago, and Paris, so I well remember Buffet as a central figure amid a group of artists called Misérablistes—the now-forgotten Francis Gruber being the other once well-regarded painter of the crew.

The spiky, eviscerated figures in Buffet’s La plage (The Beach), 1956, are exemplary. A number of thin figures in scant bathing attire inhabit the seaside landscape, at least ten of whom appear to possess Buffet’s own gaunt body. (The work joins thirteen others in this survey-style

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