PAINTINGS AND WATERCOLORS BY BERNARD BUFFET -- Through Jan. 30 at Gallerie Elysees, 1338 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
The devil gorges himself on human bodies. French revolutionary Charlotte Corday wields a bloody knife as a naked Paul Marat bleeds from the chest -- he has been stabbed in the heart. Angry, grim-faced youths rout the French army.
The works of artist Bernard Buffet are almost too grotesque to hang on the wall.
Bold and stirring, Buffet's early murals are not beautiful -- they depict classic scenes from Dante's "Inferno," mythology and the Bible. People either love or hate them. No one feels luke-warm about Buffet.
He always makes his signature prominent, in black paint. But you don't need it to identify the artist. The Buffet style is distinctive -- black lines, thick and bold, bright colors, angry. He appears to shout.
But an apparently mellowed Buffet is hanging on the walls of Gallerie Elysees on Wisconsin Avenue.These are serene water-colors with a touch of the folk artist, an exhibit that is in startling contrast to his earlier, nightmarish murals.
The works ae vibrant two-dimensional studies of peaceful ports and small seaside resorts. There are still-life oils of artichokes and flowers painted with muted rainbow hues. These paintings ae recent Buffet and the pastoral country estates with long delicate strokes and subdued colors are reminiscent of post-impressionistic works.He has toned down the black lines, but they are still Buffet.
One oil painting, "Bateaux Avec Doris," evokes the mood of a gray Normandy village. Calm, murky-green waters are painted with little dimension; graceful, double-masted sailboats seem to actually sit on top of the water. Bold storkes of gray and white create an overcast sky. Buffet pulls us into the boats and makes us want to sail away.