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Artists Jean Dubuffet
Jean Dubuffet Photo

Jean Dubuffet

French Painter, Printmaker, and Sculptor

Movements and Styles: Art Brut, Art Informel

Born: July 31, 1901 - Le Havre, France

Died: May 12, 1985 - Paris, France

Jean Dubuffet Timeline

Quotes

"Look at what lies at your feet! .. A crack in the ground, sparkliing gravel, a tuft of grass, some crushed debris, offer equally worthy subjects for your applause and admiration."
Jean Dubuffet
"For me, insanity is super sanity. The normal is psychotic. Normal means lack of imagination, lack of creativity."
Jean Dubuffet
"Unless one says goodbye to what one loves, and unless one travels to completely new territories, one can expect merely a long wearing away of oneself and an eventual extinction."
Jean Dubuffet
"In the name of what - except perhaps the coefficient of rarity - does man adorn himself with necklaces of shells and not spider's webs, with fox fur and not fox innards? In the name of what I don't know. Don't dirt, trash and filth, which are man's companions during his whole lifetime, deserve to be dearer to him and isn't it serving him well to remind him of their beauty?"
Jean Dubuffet

"Personally, I believe very much in values of savagery; I mean: instinct, passion, mood, violence, madness."

Jean Dubuffet Signature

Synopsis

Jean Dubuffet disliked authority from a very early age. He left home at 17, failed to complete his art education, and wavered for many years between painting and working in his father's wine business. He would later be a successful propagandist, gaining notoriety for his attacks on conformism and mainstream culture, which he described as "asphyxiating." He was attracted to the art of children and the mentally ill, and did much to promote their work, collecting it and promulgating the notion of Art Brut. His early work was influenced by that of outsiders, but it was also shaped by the interests in materiality that preoccupied many post-war French artists associated with the Art Informel movement. In the early 1960s, he developed a radically new, graphic style, which he called "Hourloupe," and would deploy it on many important public commissions, but he remains best known for the thick textured and gritty surfaces of his pictures from the 1940s and '50s.

Key Ideas

Dubuffet was launched to success with a series of exhibitions that opposed the prevailing mood of post-war Paris and consequently sparked enormous scandal. While the public looked for a redemptive art and a restoration of old values, Dubuffet confronted them with childlike images that satirized the conventional genres of high art. And while the public looked for beauty, he gave them pictures with coarse textures and drab colors, which critics likened to dirt and excrement.
The emphasis on texture and materiality in Dubuffet's paintings might be read as an insistence on the real. In the aftermath of the war, it represented an appeal to acknowledge humanity's failings and begin again from the ground - literally the soil - up.
Dubuffet's Hourloupe style developed from a chance doodle while he was on the telephone. The basis of it was a tangle of clean black lines that forms cells, which are sometimes filled with unmixed color. He believed the style evoked the manner in which objects appear in the mind. This contrast between physical and mental representation later encouraged him to use the approach to create sculpture.

Biography

Jean Dubuffet Photo

Childhood

Jean Dubuffet was born on July 31, 1901, in Le Havre, France, into a middle-class family that distributed wine. Although he was well-educated, he came to reject his studies, preferring to educate himself by reading the work of Dr. Hans Prinzhorn, who drew comparisons between the art of asylum inmates and the artwork of children. Based on these observations, Prinzhorn stated that it was savagery, or base animal instinct, that lead to universal harmony, arguing that it was the primal instinct, not intellectual theory or analysis, that connected all living things. This concept had a strong influence on Dubuffet's later career.

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Jean Dubuffet Biography Continues

Important Art by Jean Dubuffet

The below artworks are the most important by Jean Dubuffet - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Apartment Houses, Paris (1946)
Artwork Images

Apartment Houses, Paris (1946)

Artwork description & Analysis: The painting Apartment Houses, Paris focuses on urban life. The buildings are tilted, playfully defying architectural integrity. The flattening of the space between the sky, buildings, and civilians seems spontaneous and unprocessed - childlike. Here Dubuffet satirizes conventional, sentimental images of Paris, suggesting instead that the jollity of the city's inhabitants is forced and false.

Oil with sand and charcoal on canvas - Private collection

Grand Maitre of the Outsider (1947)
Artwork Images

Grand Maitre of the Outsider (1947)

Artwork description & Analysis: This picture is typical of the Hautes Pates series that Dubuffet exhibited to huge controversy in 1946. A thick, monochromatic surface serves as the ground for the crudely depicted figure, which is a parody of portraiture. Although Dubuffet undoubtedly intended the series to offend and his graphic style and thick, coarse impasto certainly did offend conventional tastes, it is worth noting that the color palette is not as jarring as it might be. Dubuffet was at least cautiously mindful of the need for success.

Oil and emulsion on canvas - Private collection

The Cow With The Subtle Nose (1954)
Artwork Images

The Cow With The Subtle Nose (1954)

Artwork description & Analysis: Dubuffet's heady experience in the country and rejection of art education is evident in this painting. The heavily textured surface depicts a cow, rendered in the childlike innocence of patients held in psychological facilities. The uninhibited, savage approach to the canvas exemplifies the concepts of what Dubuffet termed Art Brut - the image seems entirely unschooled in the traditions of landscape. The image is thus at odds with the notions of "high art," and approaches art making from the direction of artistic purity uninfluenced by cultural advancement. Going a step further, Dubuffet suggests how "cultural" and "savage" approaches to art together work to reaffirm civilization as a whole.

Oil and enamel on canvas - The Museum Of Modern Art, New York

More Jean Dubuffet Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Jean Dubuffet
Interactive chart with Jean Dubuffet's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Jean FautrierJean Fautrier
Edvard MunchEdvard Munch
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso

Personal Contacts

Hans PrinzhornHans Prinzhorn
Max JacobMax Jacob
Jean PaulhanJean Paulhan
André BretonAndré Breton
André MassonAndré Masson

Movements

CubismCubism
Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
ExpressionismExpressionism
SurrealismSurrealism

Influences on Artist
Jean Dubuffet
Jean Dubuffet
Years Worked: 1942 - 1985
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Jean-Michel BasquiatJean-Michel Basquiat
Julian SchnabelJulian Schnabel
Georg BaselitzGeorg Baselitz

Personal Contacts

André MassonAndré Masson
André BretonAndré Breton
Antonin ArtaudAntonin Artaud
Jean PaulhanJean Paulhan

Movements

Art BrutArt Brut
Neo-ExpressionismNeo-Expressionism
Pop ArtPop Art

Useful Resources on Jean Dubuffet

Books

Websites

Articles

Audio

Videos

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Jean Dubuffet: Works, Writings, Interviews

By Valerie Da Costa, Fabrice Hergott, Jean Dubuffet

The Work of Jean Dubuffet, with texts by the artist Recomended resource

By Peter Selz, Jean Dubuffet

Jean Dubuffet: Towards an Alternative Reality

By Jean Dubuffet, Mildred Glimcher

Dubuffet Prints from the Museum of Modern Art

By the Museum of Modern Art, New York

More Interesting Books about Jean Dubuffet
Dubuffet Foundation Recomended resource

Features an In-Depth Biography, Images of Works

MoMA: Jean Dubuffet

Includes Images and Analyses of Dubuffet's Works from the MoMA Collection

Jean Dubuffet

By Sophie Berrebi
Frieze Magazine
January - February 2002

The French Establishment Salutes a Dedicated Rebel Recomended resource

By Alan Riding
The New York Times
October 23, 2001

Jean Dubuffet, Giving Pleasure Despite Himself

By Michael Kimmelman
The New York Times
July 4, 1993

UbuWeb Sound - Jean Dubuffet

Provides Audio Files of Coucou Bazar Turin, Musique Brut, and Musical Experiments by Dubuffet


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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Larissa Borteh

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Larissa Borteh
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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