Celebrated French artist Guy Buffet creates a whimsical tribute
to the Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance.
- Written byMelinda O’brien
While serving as the featured guest artist aboard the Paul Gaughin cruise ship, French-American painter Guy Buffet did more than wield his paintbrush. With the sheer force of his personality and style, he inadvertently convinced some influential passengers that he was the right person to serve as the grand marshal for the 19th annual Palos Verdes Concours d’ Elegance. Once Guy agreed to the idea, things got kicked into high gear. And now in sync with inviting a renowned painter—as opposed to the traditional automotive celebrity—to host this premiere car affair, Concours chairman Peter Kunoth explains: “This year’s event will be a colorful tribute to the art and beauty of our cars, plus the art and natural beauty of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.”
Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Trump National Golf Club, the Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance is scheduled to deliver a picture-perfect production on Sunday, September 18. With Guy leading the celebration, the non-profit event promises to provide a world-class car show that will raise funds for charitable and community purposes. This year’s show will benefit the Palos Verdes Art Center and Palos Verdes Rotary Foundation Charities, including Harbor Area Boys & Girls Clubs.
In honor of the Concours and its charitable causes, Guy has completed a painting that will grace the cover of the event’s program. Showcasing the glorious Palos Verdes Peninsula on a late summer day, the painting features a sea of abundant foliage, Palos Verdes homes with their typical red tile roofs, luxurious resorts, first class golf courses, surfers, sunbathers and the Pacific Ocean. The scene also includes superimposed impressionistic snapshots of vintage cars that are participating in this year’s competition as well as happy chefs and waiters taking part in a “gourmet tour” of Palos Verdes. The original painting (acrylic on canvas, 24×30, framed) will be sold via a silent auction, and prints will be sold to raise funds for the charities benefiting from the Concours.
Given Guy’s personal and professional background, the event’s charity component made sense to him—an artist who has benefited more than once from the generosity of staunch art supporters. After becoming the official artist for the French Navy at the young age of 18, Guy was given the assignment to “paint the world.” The young man took his job very seriously, conducting exhibitions in exotic places like Tahiti and New Caledonia. The French Navy eventually helped organize Guy’s first exhibition in the Hawaiian Islands, where, after being discharged, the artist was taken under the wing of the prominent Cooke family, who offered to provide him with living and studio space on Molokai.
Several commissions from the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts followed. And as Guy continued to live and work in the states for some two decades, he did so to critical acclaim. Upon returning to Paris to live after a 20-year hiatus from his homeland, Guy felt he was rediscovering the city of his boyhood through the eyes of a tourist. This revitalized viewpoint inspired the artist to capture the French spirit on canvas.
As a result, Guy is probably best known for his paintings of jolly French waiters, chefs and sommeliers. There is a good chance, in fact, that one of his most recognizable characters may have a place in your kitchen—perhaps in the center of a Williams Sonoma dessert plate. Ironically, when asked what he would have done for a living had he not been an artist, Guy states firmly, “I would not have wanted to work in a restaurant.” This response carries weight when coming from a Frenchman whose childhood is marked by memories of the restaurant his parents owned in Paris.
Since selling his first watercolor at the age of 13 to an American tourist who was visiting the Buffet family restaurant, Guy has been working to create stories, often in series form, on canvas. While he strictly uses acrylics these days, the result is the same. He captures the personality of a person or environment in such a way as to make the subject matter appealing to the onlooker. He explains, “Art should be something to enjoy and help you forget your worries. I invite the viewer to share my experience; I take you into my world like a guest into my home. I want you to be comfortable and relaxed. When people take a painting of mine into their home because it makes them happy and they like it, it has accomplished its purpose.”
Given this outlook, Guy has every right to be proud of his many artistic accomplishments. The painter has assembled countless one-man shows in virtually every corner of the world and served as official artist for numerous advertising campaigns, including Champagne Perrier-Jouet, Absolut Vodka, Aloha Airlines and the Tour De France. His paintings can be found on display in La Musee de la Monnaie in Paris, the Museum of the French Navy in Toulon, the Honolulu Academy of Art and the John Deere Museum. And while his art has found its way into the private collections of Kirk Douglas, Rob Stewart and Wolfgang Puck, Guy is happy to know that every-day people can enjoy his work firsthand as well.
Here is a case in point. Once while traveling through an airport in New Jersey, Guy was approached by a sky captain who had spotted the artist’s name on a luggage tag. The employee declared, “You are Guy Buffet! I have all of your work in my kitchen.” While the fan’s pronunciation made Guy’s surname sound like that of the singer Jimmy Buffet, the artist was quite receptive of the compliment, which clearly confirmed that he had “made it” in the United States. Not surprisingly, Guy and his French flair are still “making it” in the world over today.
To find out more about Guy Buffet, visit guybuffet.com. Then check out pvconcours.com to get the latest news on the Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance.
More than a pipe dream.