Jean Dubuffet

Dubuffet

Jean Dubuffet [zhahn doo-buh-fey] (1901 – 1985) was a French painter and sculptor. His idealistic approach to aesthetics embraced so called ‘low art’ and eschewed traditional standards of beauty in favor of what he believed to be a more authentic and humanistic approach to image-making.

After a break of several years, he took up painting again in the 1930s, when he made a large series of portraits in which he emphasized the vogues in art history. But again stopped, only turning to art for good in 1942 when he started to paint figures of nude women in a impersonal and primitive way, in strong and unbroken colors. Also he chose as subjects people in the commonplace of everyday life, such as people sitting in the underground, or just walking in the country.

In 1945 he became strongly impressed by a show in Paris of Jean Fautrier’s paintings in which he recognized meaningful art which expressed directly and purely the depth of a person. As did Fautrier he started to use thick oil paint, but mixed with sand and gravel, by which he could model the paint as a skin of the painting. This resulted in the series ‘Hautes Pâtes,’ he exhibited in 1946. He next started a series of portraits, with as ‘model’ partly his own friends Henri Michaux, Francis Ponge, Jean Paulhan and Pierre Matisse. He painted these portraits in the same thick materials, and deliberately anti-psychological and anti-personal, as Dubuffet expressed himself.

A few years later he approached the surrealist group in 1948, then the College of Pataphysique in 1954. He was befriended by the French playwright, actor and theater director Antonin Artaud, and he admired and supported the writer Celine, and was strongly connected with the artistic circle around the surrealist André Masson. In 1944 started an important relation with the resistance-fighter and French writer, publisher, Jean Paulhan who was also strongly fighting against ‘intellectual terrorism,’ as he called it.

Influenced by Hans Prinzhorn’s book ‘Artistry of the Mentally Ill,’ Dubuffet coined the term Art Brut (meaning ‘raw art,’ oftentimes referred to as ‘outsider art’) for art produced by non-professionals working outside aesthetic norms, such as art by psychiatric patients, prisoners, and children. He amassed his own collection of such art, including artists such as Aloïse Corbaz and Adolf Wölfli. Dubuffet sought to create an art as free from intellectual concerns as Art Brut, and his work often appears primitive and child-like.

Many of Dubuffet’s works are painted in oil paint using an impasto thickened by materials such as sand, tar and straw, giving the work an unusually textured surface. From 1962 he produced a series of works in which he limited himself to the colors red, white, black, and blue. Towards the end of the 1960s he turned increasingly to sculpture, producing works in polystyrene which he then painted with vinyl paint.

In late 1960-1961, Dubuffet began experimenting with music and sound and made several recordings with the Danish painter Asger Jorn, a founding member of the avant-garde movement COBRA. The same period he started making sculpture, but in a very not-sculptural way. As his medium he preferred to use the ordinary materials as papier mâchier and for all the light medium polystyrene, in which he could model very fast and switch easily from one work to another, as sketches on paper. At the end of the sixties he started to create his large sculpture-habitations, such as ‘Tour aux figures,’ ‘Jardin d’Hiver’ and ‘Villa Falbala’ in which people can wander, stay, contemplate etc.

In 1978 Dubuffet collaborated with American composer and musician Jasun Martz to create the record album artwork for Martz’s avant-garde symphony entitled ‘The Pillory.’ The much written about drawing has been reproduced internationally in three different editions on tens-of-thousands of record albums and compact discs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.