Art: Gloomy Prodigy

Paris, surfeited with aging masters, has taken a 22-year-old painter to its bosom. He is a shadowy figure, shy, ascetic and wire-thin, named Bernard Buffet. Two years ago Buffet's first show won the coveted annual Prix de la Critique; his latest exhibition in Paris was a near sell-out (at prices which averaged one-third the going rate for a Braque or a Picasso). Last week Buffet's first show in Manhattan was doing fine, too.

In Paris, Buffet's work was described as "conscientious and cruel," but "thin and dingy" would do just as well. Buffet's "nudes" were bony yellow or grey creatures hovering,...

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