Jean Dubuffet

Jean Dubuffet
Ponge feu follet noir, 1947
Le voyageur égaré, 1950
Corps de dame – Pièce de boucherie, 1950
Le très riche sol, 1956
Table de barbe, 1959
Autobus Gare Montparnasse, 1961
Chassé-croisé, 1961
Vertu virtuelle, 1963
Automobile à la route noire, 1963
Site avec trois personnages, 1974
Incitations divergentes, 1976
Argument et contexte, 1977
Ponge feu follet noir, 1947
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Jean Dubuffet
Ponge feu follet noir, 1947

Ponge as Will-o’-the-Wisp
Oil on canvas on Pavatex, 132.5 x 99.5 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

With unbridled resolve, the French artist Jean Dubuffet pitted his subversive, caustically humorous works against the antiquated art of museums. Seeking to debunk all aesthetic norms, he propagated a raw, iconoclastic art which he termed “Art Brut”. The output of the mentally ill, outsiders, self-taught artists and children, none of whom are likely to have been acquainted with ‘high art’, served as inspiration for his own works. Even in traditional genres – portraiture, the female nude, landscape – Dubuffet sounded out new creative possibilities which eschewed the rules of art: in this case, his anti-psychological and anti-personal portrait of the novelist Francis Ponge as a black “will-o’-the-wisp” – Ponge feu follet noir.

Le voyageur égaré, 1950
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Jean Dubuffet
Le voyageur égaré, 1950

The Lost Traveller
Oil on canvas, 130 x 195 cm
Photo: Cantz Medienmanagement, Ostfildern

In The lost traveller, which belongs to his series of “Paysages grotesques”, Dubuffet is no longer depicting a landscape, since the pictorial medium of the crusty impasto applied to the large-scale canvas actually is the landscape, created by the manner of the paint’s modelling and the furrows and scratches gouged into the surface. The calamities of the twentieth century bring to mind the image of the human subject as a lost traveller. The work can also be interpreted as a comment on contemporary circumstances. Dubuffet’s experiments and theories bore a strong influence on European and American art in the 1950s and 1960s.

Corps de dame – Pièce de boucherie, 1950
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Jean Dubuffet
Corps de dame – Pièce de boucherie, 1950

Woman’s Body—Butcher’s Slab
Oil on canvas, 116 x 89 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

As if he were depicting a lump of meat on offer in a butcher’s, Dubuffet portrayed the female nude he provocatively titled Woman’s body – Butcher’s slab by thickly coating the canvas with paint as if it were plaster and presenting it as the scrawled-on wall of a prehistoric cave.

Le très riche sol, 1956
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Jean Dubuffet
Le très riche sol, 1956

Extremely Rich Earth
Oil on canvas assemblage, 156 x 117 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

Table de barbe, 1959
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Jean Dubuffet
Table de barbe, 1959

Beard Table
Oil on canvas, 130 x 97 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Autobus Gare Montparnasse, 1961
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Jean Dubuffet
Autobus Gare Montparnasse, 1961

Bus at Montparnasse station
Gouache on paper, 67 x 67 cm
Photo: Cantz Medienmanagement, Ostfildern

Chassé-croisé, 1961
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Jean Dubuffet
Chassé-croisé, 1961

Chased-crossed
Oil on canvas, 81 x 100 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Vertu virtuelle, 1963
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Jean Dubuffet
Vertu virtuelle, 1963

Virtual Virtue
Oil on canvas, 98 x 131 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

In the 1960s Dubuffet’s art signalled a radical volte-face. Abandoning his previous experimental use of materials and techniques, in his extensive “Hourloupe” cycle (1962–74) he sought to capture aspects of reality rooted in the imagination and invention. Exploring the swarm of lines, colours and forms in Virtual virtue, the observer’s eye finds nothing to latch on to: it slithers over patches of hatching, hops from one figure to the next and repeatedly trips over the grotesque visages of animals or men.

Automobile à la route noire, 1963
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Jean Dubuffet
Automobile à la route noire, 1963

Car on a Black Road
Oil on canvas, 195 x 150 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

Site avec trois personnages, 1974
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Jean Dubuffet
Site avec trois personnages, 1974

Landscape with Three Figures
Vinyl paint on cut-out pressed wood, 269.5 x 446.7 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

The three gnomic figures in Landscape with three personages are generated from the same basic forms, colours and hatchings as the spaces surrounding them. Dubuffet’s painting is a visual puzzle, a bizarre mental game, but also a play on the perception of three-dimensionality within a two-dimensional picture that he painted to challenge the ways we see ourselves and the world.

Incitations divergentes, 1976
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Currently on show at the Fondation Beyeler

Jean Dubuffet
Incitations divergentes, 1976

Divergent Incitements
Acrylic on glued paper on canvas (twenty-eight parts overall), 173 x 291 cm
Photo: Christian Baur

Argument et contexte, 1977
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Jean Dubuffet
Argument et contexte, 1977

Argument and Context
Acrylic on glued paper on canvas (sixty-six parts), 201 x 249 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Jean Dubuffet
Jean Dubuffet
Jean Dubuffet

1901, Le Havre – 1985, Paris

The French painter, sculptor and writer evolved his style of art from the pictures created spontaneously by children and the mentally ill. In 1948 he founded the “Compagnie de l’Art Brut” which advocated working artistically outside the bounds of familiar aesthetic norms and academic training. In 1962 he developed a semi-figurative, semi-abstract artistic idiom in a large series of works he called Hourloupe. In his later work Dubuffet returned to the gestural techniques of Art Informel. The pictures he painted or scratched into surfaces of polyester resin were also inspired by the materials he used – both artificial and natural materials such as plaster, sand, glue or putty, which he applied with a palette knife, kneaded, scratched and covered with scribbles.

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