Dubuffet never stopped shaking up accomplishments in art and traditional values, substituting them with derision and the unusual. He built up a huge body of work on the margin of all reducible and alienating tendencies…
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Dubuffet, painter, lithographer, sculptor, musician, writer, poet and activist for nonstandard art : “art brut”
A painter, lithographer, sculptor, musician, writer and poet, Jean Dubuffet himself wrote the most pertinent remarks on his own creations. He thus commented on his approach in his notes published in the appendix to the Georges Limbour’s book: “A leavened painting… (1953, pp. 91-97 Ed. Drouin, Paris) and in ‘Thesis on the development of my work from 1952’, published in the catalogue of the Retrospective at the Museum of Decorative Arts (1960, pp. 131 to 199).
Dubuffet never stopped shaking up accomplishments in art and traditional values, substituting them with derision and the unusual. He built up a huge body of work on the margin of all reducible and alienating tendencies.
His works were long considered as manifestations of contempt against reason and culture. In addition to his work, he was an activist for nonstandard art, that of the mentally ill, the simple-minded and children that he himself named “art brut”.
“True art is always where you don’t expect it.
Where nobody thinks about it or says its name.
Art hates to be recognized and hailed by its name…”
Jean Dubuffet became a collector and organized several events between 1947 and 1951 in the basements of the Drouin Gallery (in 1949 during one of these Art brut presentations, he published ‘Art brut preferred to cultural arts: “true art is always where you don’t expect it. Where nobody thinks about it or says its name. Art hates to be recognized and hailed by its name…”) and created a museum to house this collection at 17 rue de l’Université, transferred to 137 rue de Sèvres in 1962.
This Art brut company was based in Lausanne since 1971. In 1959 A. Chave organized an exhibition in his Galerie des Mages in Vence, “Art Brut’ presented by Dubuffet, and in 1967 the Museum of Decorative Arts in turn organized an exhibition.
Dubuffet was always very demanding regarding his work. He maintained the debate and controversy surrounding it, which is barely silenced today. His huge, experimental, varied and rich work remains that of a unique inventor of shapes who relied on irreverence and fantasy.
As early as 1954, Alfred Barr wrote:
“It is possible that the most original painter who has emerged from Paris since the war is not an abstract painter. A man of exceptional intelligence and maturity, Jean Dubuffet, combines a childlike style with bold innovations in how to paint and a sense of grotesque humour” (in “Les Maîtres de l’Art Moderne”).
In view of the considerable amount of writings on the man and his work, starting with his own texts, we will only quote the key documents pertaining to the period studied here, and invite the reader to peruse the bibliography in the catalogue of the Dubuffet Donation to the Museum of Decorative Arts, published in 1967. Similarly, given the abundance of his work, we will only raise the period inherent to the limits imposed by the scope of this book.
Born into a family of wine merchants, he continued his studies (in high school with fellow classmates Georges Limbour – who would become his first critic and Armand Salacrou) and enrolled in 1916 in the Fine Arts Academy of Le Havre. He then went to Paris in 1918 to study painting at the Julian Academy. He became acquainted with Suzanne Valadon, Elie Lascaux and Max Jacob and painted in a traditional, or even academic style.
Excerpt from “The School of Paris, 1945-1965 Dictionary of Painters”,
Edited by Ides and Calendes, (1993, republished in 2010)
Courtesy of Lydia Harambourg