Les Deux Bretonnes (Two Breton Women), 1956, Bernard Buffet (French, 1928-1999), oil on canvas, gift of Sheila and Alvin Ukman, 1971.14.1.
“What these painters bore witness to was the emptiness of the world, the desolation of things deserted in the ghost-like barrenness of space, man’s vulnerability.” -From Werner Haftmann’s Painting in the Twentieth Century, 1965
Bernard Buffet was a French post-World War II Expressionist painter and member of the anti-abstract group, L’ Homme Témoin (The Witness Man). The group, formed in Paris in 1948, sought to promote the Socialist Realism style to combat the prevailing popularity of abstaction. L’ Homme Témoin believed that abstraction was inherently classist and could never resonate with or communicate to the common person.
Buffet was, even among L’ Homme Témoin, especially known for his aggressive brushstrokes and angular lines. In Les Deux Bretonnes, the two depicted women’s elongated and sorrowful expressions would have created strong feelings of empathy for a post-war European audience.