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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

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

Jean Dubuffet Signature

Summary of Jean Dubuffet

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.
Jean Dubuffet Photo

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.

Important Art by Jean Dubuffet Important Art and Analysis

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 Google 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 Google 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 Google 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:

Soul of the Underground (1959) L'Hourloupe (1966) Monument with Standing Beast (1984)

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
Show influences

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

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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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First published on 01 Aug 2012. Updated and modified regularly. Information
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