Flowers by Bernard Buffet honored Pierre Soulages. A fine, sober tribute.
Pierre Soulages (1919-2022), Peinture 102 x 81 cm, 30 mai 1981, 1981, oil on canvas, 102.3 x 80.3 cm/40.3 in x 31.6 in.
Pierre Soulages passed away on October 26 at the age of 102. On Wednesday, November 2, France paid him a national tribute in the Cour Carrée of the Louvre, a venue described by the president as a "house of painters", and which had hosted Soulages during the winter of 2019-2020. The same afternoon in Neuilly, at a sale scheduled long in advance, one of his paintings, Peinture 102 x 81 cm, 30 mai 1981, landed a bid of €1,228,560 (see photo). The first work by the Rodez-born artist to be sold since his death, it inspired a fierce bidding battle, and finally went to a French collector. It is a small format belonging to the artist’s chromatic explorations of browns, beiges and blacks, which he began in 1979: the very path that led him to the unique use of outrenoir (ultrablack) on canvas.
At the auction house, the presence of three floral paintings by Bernard Buffet (1928-1999) seemed like an additional tribute. Though their personal approaches were very different, the two painters each left their own particular mark on 20th-century art. Begonias, Irises and Anemones (65 x 54 cm/25.6 x 21.3 in) from 1977 found a niche at €148,500, a Large Bouquet of Marigolds (65.5 x 81 cm/25.8 x 31.9 in) from 1976 at €143,000 and a Bouquet of Roses (65 x 54 cm/25.6 x 21.3 in) from 1963 at €130,000. These results are in line with Buffet’s price index, and confirmed the unfailing demand for an artist who chose figuration at a time when abstraction was in vogue.
After that, two women artists also illustrating these two paths made a fine impression. They were the Algerian Fatma Mahieddine, aka Baya (1931-1998), and Shirley Jaffe (1923-2016), one of the second generation of American Expressionists. Both posted world records (source: Artnet): the former at €145,600 for Femmes et enfants autour d'une petite table (Women and Children Around a Small Table: 65 x 100 cm/25.6 x 39.4 in), a gouache from around 1950 characteristic of her style, depicting female figures in lush vegetation; the latter at €97,500 for a work, Untitled (65 x 54 cm/25.6 x 21.3 in) from 1995, exemplifying her geometric approach. All in all, the sale made €3.2 M.