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Bernard Buffet: The Invention of the Modern Mega-artist Hardcover – 14 Jan 2016
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"splendidly unstuffy… first class" (The Times)
"[a] fascinating account" (Bill Prince Telegraph Luxury)
"[a] thoroughly researched account of a life tinged with sadness, spent mostly in the studio, compulsively painting" (The Independent)
"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." (Wallpaper*)
"Foulkes has drowned himself in the subject and done some impressive research… He always has interesting things to say…bold and stylish." (The Spectator)
"A timely reappraisal of Buffet’s work and a haunting account of a glittering career that ended in tragedy" (Daily Mail)
"Riveting" (Daily Mail)
"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" (Esquire)
"A storyteller beyond compare" (The Rake)
About the Author
Nicholas Foulkes is the author of around twenty books. He is best known for his critically acclaimed trilogy of nineteenth-century histories: Scandalous Society (a biography of Count d'Orsay); Dancing Into Battle, A Social History of the Battle of Waterloo; and Gentlemen and Blackguards: Gambling Mania and the Plot to Steal the Derby of 1844. He is a columnist for Country Life; a contributing editor to the FT's How To Spend It magazine, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and luxury editor of British GQ. He is the founding editor of 'Vanity Fair on Art' and he has written on the arts for a wide range of periodicals. In 2009 he was appointed to the board of the Norman Mailer Center. He is a graduate of Hertford College, Oxford and lives in London with his wife and two sons.
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The author attempts to rescue Buffet's reputation from decades of snickering. However, his unsparing biography manages to portray the painter sucked into a pampered, aimless life like the society poodles of Felini’s La Dolce Vita. Much is conveyed by passages liberally quoted throughout taken from vacuous social columns and gitzy press reports of the period: they fawn, they flatter, they applaud, casually tossing the word 'genius' onto pictures. But they say nothing of depth or consequence, to extol the safe and fashionable. Foulkes shows Buffet as a victim of sycophants and wily picture salesmen who didn’t want their cash-cow to develop and mature.
It’s a complusive read. That said the book has a too narrow focus at times, never refering to cross-connections between Parisian artists. The major absence is the ‘peintre maudit’ (damned painter) Francis Gruber, who was heroised by the existentialists before his death of TB in 1948, and was much emulated by young hopefuls. Buffet knew Gruber, worked in his shadow, even showed with him. But Foulkes doesn’t acknowledge this, or that teenaged Buffet distilled early emaciated figures from Gruber, or his stark still-life subject matter came from Picasso.
These omissions are excusable, although the author gets into a habit of portraying every new painting as an immense physical and mental struggle. Foulkes is a better writer than this. What most stretches credulity is his unsupported claim that the politician Andre Malraux pulled government strings to ruin Buffet’s career. Otherwise, he has written a fascinating expose. (Readers who enjoy this book may also be interested in Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55.)
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