PARIS (AP) _ Bernard Buffet, one of France's major contemporary painters, killed himself Monday, an art dealer who worked with him said. He was 71.

Buffet suffered from Parkinson's disease, according to Maurice Garnier, who owns the Garnier Gallery in Paris and worked with the artist for 51 years.

``He warned me,'' Garnier told The Associated Press in reporting Buffet's suicide. ``He was suffering from Parkinson's and couldn't work anymore.''

Buffet took his life at his home in southern France, La Domaine de la Baume, in the Var region, where he lived with his wife, Annabel. Garnier reported the suicide, but did not say how Buffet took his life.

An outspoken advocate of figurative painting at a time when abstraction was the rage, Buffet remained faithful to the distinctive, black vertical brushstrokes he used to recreate emaciated faces, imperial Russian palaces, flowers or sad-faced clowns.

He also was an engraver who executed geometric works, illustrated books and was the decorator for some ballets at the Paris Opera.

Born July 10, 1928, Buffet was roundly ignored by the French art establishment. The Georges Pompidou Center of modern and contemporary art, for example, never purchased any of his work.

Yet he was a superstar abroad, and two museums in Japan are devoted to Buffet's work.

Maurice Rheims, a noted auctioneer, said on France-Info radio that, in his opinion, Buffet did not kill himself because of his illness but because of the reported disdain he faced.

``I think he really killed himself from the incomprehension .... (of) the majority of the world of painters,'' Rheims said.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.