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Jean Dubuffet
Jean Dubuffet, Court les rues, 1962, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI. An example of a non-painterly Dubuffet painting
Born July 31, 1901(1901-07-31)
Le Havre, France
Died May 12, 1985 (aged 83)
Nationality French
Field Painting, Sculpture

Jean Philippe Arthur Dubuffet (July 31, 1901 - May 12, 1985) was one of the most famous French painters and sculptors of the second half of the 20th century.

Contents

Life and work

Dubuffet was born in Le Havre. He moved to Paris in 1918 to study painting at the Académie Julian, but after six months he left the Académie to study independently. In 1924, doubting the value of art, he stopped painting and took over his father's business selling wine. 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 colours. 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. His first solo show came in 1944.

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 Fautrier he now 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 at the Galérie René Drouin. After 1946 he 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 with the French writer for theater Antonin Artaud, 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 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. The collection is now housed at the Musée de l'Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. 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 colours 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. 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. A detail of the drawing is also featured on Martz’s second symphony (2005), The Pillory/The Battle, performed by The Intercontinental Philharmonic Orchestra and Royal Choir.

Scratched and trowelled in their mud like pigment, their outlines scrawled in a sophisticated parody of the hasty gential urgency of street graffiti, Dubuffet's cruel portraits of French intellectuals and writers in the 1940s go beyond caricature; they are pathetic monsters.
Robert Hughes

One of Dubuffet's later works was Monument With Standing Beast (1984). Dubuffet died in Paris in 1985. The Fondation Jean Dubuffet collects and exhibits his work.

Selected bibliography

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Catalogue Raisonné

  • Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Fascicule I-XXXVIII, Pauvert: Paris, 1965-1991
  • Webel, Sophie, L’Œuvre gravé et les livres illustrés par Jean Dubuffet. Catalogue raisonné. Lebon: Paris 1991

Writings

  • Jean Dubuffet, Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Tome I, II, Paris 1967; Tome III, IV, Gallimard: Paris 1995
  • Jean Dubuffet, Asphyxiating Culture and other Writings. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1986
    ISBN 0-941423-09-3

Principal studies

  • Michel Ragon, Dubuffet, New York: Grove Press, 1959
  • Peter Selz, The Work of Jean Dubuffet, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1962
  • Max Loreau, Jean Dubuffet, délits déportements lieux de haut jeu, Paris: Weber, 1971
  • Andreas Franzke, Jean Dubuffet, Basel: Beyeler, 1976
  • Andreas Franzke, Jean Dubuffet, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1981
  • Michel Thévoz, Jean Dubuffet, Geneva: Albert Skira, 1986
  • Mildred Glimcher, Jean Dubuffet: Towards an Alternative Reality. New York: Pace Gallery 1987
    ISBN 0-89659-782-2
  • Mechthild Haas, Jean Dubuffet, Berlin: Reimer, 1997
  • Jean Dubuffet, Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 2001
    ISBN 2-84426-093-4
  • Laurent Danchin, Jean Dubuffet, New York: Vilo International, 2001
    ISBN 2-87939-240-3
  • Jean Dubuffet: Trace of an Adventure, ed. by Agnes Husslein-Arco, Munich: Prestel, 2003
    ISBN 3-7913-2998-7
  • Michael Krajewski, Jean Dubuffet. Studien zu seinem Fruehwerk und zur Vorgeschichte des Art brut, Osnabrueck: Der andere Verlag, 2004
    ISBN 3-89959-168-2

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Jean Philippe Arthur Dubuffet (July 31, 1901May 12, 1985) was one of the most famous European painters and sculptors of the second half of the 20th century. Dubuffet coined the term Art Brut for the art produced by non-professionals working outside aesthetic norms, such as art by children, mental patients, prisoners. The material in Art Brut is essential. Dubuffet's art is representational, in which he strives for the general and the popular meaning.

Sourced

  • It was around 1935 or 1936 that I first had the idea of compiling a history of art – not in the usual way, but considering only the fads that have succeeded one another down through the ages. For example, the infatuation in Roman times with broken pleats and heads turned in profile.. ..or during the epoch of Pérugin and Rahael, a certain blue that appears everywhere. I wanted to draw up an inventory of these vogues. To this end I visited museums, took notes in little notebooks, and made demonstrative sketches of paintings. For this purpose I preferred bad paintings, by which I mean those held to be mediocre by aesthetes, but in which these fads that interested me were clearly in evidence.
    • Batons rompus, Jean Dubuffet, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris 1986, pp. 17, 18
  • I have always been haunted by the feeling that the painter has much to gain from making use of the forces that tend to work against his action
    • as quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, edited by Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, p. 9
  • In all my works.. .. I have always had recourse to one never-varying method. It consists in making the delineation of the objects represented heavily dependent on a system of necessities which itself looks strange. These necessities are sometimes due to the inappropriate and awkward character of the material used, sometimes to some strange obsessive notion (frequently changed for another). In a word, it is always a matter of giving the person who is looking at the picture a startling impression that a weird logic has directed the painting of it, a logic to which the delineation of every object is subjected, is even sacrificed, in such a peremptory way that, curiously enough, it forces the most unexpected solutions, and, in spite of the obstacles it creates, brings out the desired figuration.
    • Peter Selz and Jean Dubuffet: The work of Jean Dubuffet, The Museum of Modern art, New York, 1962
  • I had given up ( around 1950, fh) any ambition of making a career as an artist… ..I had lost all interest in the art shown in galleries and museums, and I no longer aspired to fit in that world. I loved the paintings done by children, and my only desire was to do the same for my own pleasure.
    • Batons rompus, Jean Dubuffet, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris 1986, pp. 7-8
  • A work of art is only of interest, in my opinion, when it is an immediate and direct projection of what is happening in the depth of a person’s being.. ..It is my belief that only in this Art Brut can we find the natural and normal processes of artistic creation in their pure and elementary state.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, pp. 203-204
  • Our culture is like a garment that does not fit us, or in any case no longer fits us. This culture is like a dead language that no longer has anything in common with the language of the street. It is increasingly alien to our lives.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 94
  • There is no such thing as abstract art, or else all art is abstract, which amounts tot the same thing. Abstract art no more exists than does curved art yellow art or green art.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 206
  • Man’s need for art is absolutely primordial, as strong as, and perhaps stronger than, our need for bread. Without bread, we die of hunger, but without art we die of boredom.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. I, as quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, edited by Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, p. 14
  • (Jean) Fautrier’s exhibition (in Paris 1945,fh) made an extremely strong impression on me. Art had never before appeared so fully realised in its pure state. The word 'art' had never before been so loaded with meaning for me.
    • letter to Jean Paulhan (letter 108), as quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, edited by Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, pp. 23,28
  • The technique used heavy, spiky pastes made of nothing other than ordinary oil paint, used thick and mixed with sand and gravel. I some cases – but these were the exception – a few miscellaneous objects were stuck into the wet paint, such as bits of string or little pieces of glass or mirror. (remark on his technique Dubuffet used in his series Hautes Pâtes, exhibited in 1946, fh)
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 428
  • I have always directed my attempts at the figurative representation of objects by way of summary and not very descriptive brushstrokes, diverging greatly from the real objective measurements of things, and this has led many people to talk about childish drawing.. ..this position of seeing them (the objects, fh) without looking at them too much, without focussing more attention on them than any ordinary man would in normal everyday life..
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 105
  • What seems interesting to me is to reproduce in the figurative representation of an object the whole complex system of impressions we receive in the normal course of everyday life, the way this affects our feelings and the shape it takes in our memory; and it is to this that I have always applied myself.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 103
  • I do not see in what way the face of a man should be a less interesting landscape than any other. A man, the physical person of a man, is a little world, like any other a country, with its towns, and suburbs.. ..As a rule what is needed in a portrait is a great deal of the general, and very little of the particular.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 63-73
  • I have observed that very often I gain access to a little secret that I have sought for a long time by way of a fortuitous encounter quite unrelated to the matter: for example six months I try to draw a camel in a way that satisfies me, and I make a thousand attempts without ever managing to do it. Then one day it is a drawing of a plump on the label of a pot of jam or the shadow thrown by an ink pot, or something or other equally unrelated to the matter that provides me with the solution. This kind of thing has happened so often that I have acquired the habit of always being on the outlook, and when I want to draw a camel I no longer limit myself, as I once did, to looking (only, fh) at camels…
    • letter to Jean Paulhan (letter 123), as quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, edited by Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, p. 44
  • I have tried to draw the human effigy (and all the other subjects dealt with in my paintings) in an immediate and effective way without any reference to the aesthetic.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 430
  • With respect to the use of this sparkling coloured material (butterfly wings around 1955, fh) – the constituent parts of which remain indistinguishable – with the aim of producing a very vivid effect of scintillation, I realised that, for me, this responds to needs of the same order as those that formerly led me, in many drawings and paintings, to organize my lines and patches of colour so that the objects represented would meld into everything around them, so that the result would be a sort of continuous, universal soup with an intensive flavour of life.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 116
  • Art should be born from the materials.
    • Notes pour les finslettrés, as quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, edited by Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, p. 68
  • I want my street to be crazy, I want my avenues, shops and buildings, to enter into a crazy dance, and this is why I deform and distort their outlines and colours. However I always come up against the same difficulty, that if all the elements were one by one deformed and distorted excessively, if in the end nothing remained of their real outlines, I would have totally effaced the location that I intended to suggest, that I wished to transform.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 483
  • ..I have never managed to grasp what exactly 'pataphysics' consisted of; but in short what I have always seen in it is a desire to disconnect philosophy from the discipline of logic, and to admit incoherence as a legitimate component of it. (comment on visiting frequently the Collège de 'Pataphysique', fh)
    • Batons rompus, Jean Dubuffet, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris 1986, p. 19
  • I associated it (the word 'Hourloupe', as title of his longest series of work he made exclusively from 1962 to 1974, fh) by assonance with ‘hurler’ (to shout), hululer (to howl), loup, (wolf), ‘Riquet à la Houppe’ and the title of Maupassant’s book ‘Le Horla’, inspired by mental distraction.
    • Biographie au pas de course, in Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. IV, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1995, p. 510
  • I took a great deal of pleasure in it, and I still feel nostalgic about it. However, I felt that it had led me to live in a parallel world of pure invention, shut inside my solitude. Naturally, it was precisely for that purpose that it was made and that was why I took pleasure in it, but I wanted to regain body and roots.
    • Batons rompus, Jean Dubuffet, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris 1986, pp. 34-35
  • It pleased me (and I think this predilection is more or less constant in all my paintings) to juxtapose brutally, in these feminine bodies, the extremely general and the extremely particular, the metaphysical and the grotesque trivial. In my view, the one is considerably reinforced by the presence of the other. (on his series 'Corps de Dame')
    • Prospectus et tous ecits suivants, Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet, Paris, Gallimard, 1967
  • What interests me about thoughts is not the moment when it crystallises into formal ideas but its earlier stages.
    • Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. I, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1967, p. 97
  • Art does not lie down on the bed that is made for it; it runs away as soon as one says its name; it loves to go incognito. Its best moments are when it forgets what it is called.
    • "Alan Magee: Paintings, Sculpture, Graphics." Forum Gallery, New York, 2004
  • At present (around 1960-1970, fh) I make objects (whether a type-writer, wheelbarrow, bed or fishingboat..) very ‘hourloupés’. What I mean is that I am swimming upstream against the ‘l’Hourloupe’ current. I am approaching it from the opposite direction: instead of starting out with indeterminate lines that eventually give me a wheelbarrow, I start out with the idea of making a wheelbarrow and then add my indeterminate lines. In effect what I am doing is making the current run simultaneously in both directions at the same time.
    • comment on the occasion of his 1984 exhibition at the Venice Biennale, as quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, edited by Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, p. 81.
  • Starting from a drawing, a pure creation of the mind, I expand it in space by giving it three dimensions, by giving it a material body (in polystyrene, fh) and then enlarge it to the proportions of a site where it can evolve. In this way, instead of having only the drawing before you while remaining anchored in the everyday world, you can finally leave the world and penetrate into drawing, and thus inhabit the creation of the mind instead of merely looking at it prudently in a frame on the wall. The experience consists, therefore, in abstracting yourself totally from the natural everyday world in order to feed your eyes solely on your own mental elaborations.
    • note of 7 mai 1968, quoted in the catalogue of the exhibition La Fiast invita all’incontro con Jean Dubuffet, Turin 1978

Unsourced

  • Painting manipulates materials that are themselves living substances, which allows one to go much further than words do in approaching and conjuring them.

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