The show is over
Sad clowns were one of Bernard Buffet’s favourite themes and one of the most popular among collectors. His vision is both humanistic and hopeless.
Bernard Buffet (1928-1999), Tête de clown (Clown’s Head), 1989, oil on canvas, 100 x 73 cm.
The deep-blue gaze looks empty and the mouth is closed. The clown has finished laughing. Bernard Buffet particularly enjoyed the world of entertainment, whether bullfighting, the circus, or Japanese theatre. But he shows us the other side of the coin, the true personality of the actors, who are, in the end, just simple men. Under the make-up is a disillusioned soul, who hides their sadness under their costume for the duration of a performance. All the ambiguity of Buffet’s work can be seen in his clown portraits. This theme, which appeared in his paintings in 1956, follows landscapes, bleak interior scenes and the “Horrors of War” series. He kept the same treatment of the figures, stretched to the extreme and schematised by black lines, but added colour for the first time. In 1968, Buffet published Mon Cirque, an important work entirely devoted to the circus. With its beautiful dimensions (one metre high), this Tête de clown (Clown’s Head) could join the artist’s highest-bid works, like a similarly sized clown’s head from 1961 that fetched €753,000 at Sotheby’s Paris on 18 October 2018.