Jean Dubuffet

France, 1901-1985

Jean Dubuffet was a French painter, sculptor, lithographer and writer. In the 1940’s, Dubuffet started collecting Art Brut (raw art), a term referring to art produced by non-professionals artists, such as mental patients, prisoners and children for his belief in values of savagery, that is instinct, passion, mood, violence, madness. In his practice, Jean Dubuffet subjects were often depersonalised and drawn as simple stick figures. He later concentrated on working with texture, innovatively experimenting with new materials, using sand or plaster, making use of uncommon media and unusual forms. The once shocking imagery of graffiti on walls found a new aesthetic within his work, and today’s popular juxtaposition of high and low culture in the same context can be traced back to Dubuffet. To the artist, beauty and ugliness were intertwined. In fact, ugliness did not even exist.

Born in Le Havre, France in 1901 Jean Dubuffet moved to Paris in 1918 to study painting at the Académie Julian. In 1944, Dubuffet held his first solo art exhibition at the Galerie René Drouin, Paris in 1944. Jean Dubuffet's work was honoured in several major solo exhibitions. His first museum retrospective occurred in 1957 at the Schloss Morsbroich, Leverkusen. Dubuffet exhibitions were subsequently held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, in 1960 to 1961; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago in 1962; Palazzo Grassi, Venice, in 1964; the Tate Gallery, London, and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, in 1966; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1966 to 1967. In 1981, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum organized an exhibition for the artist’s 80th birthday. In 2009, the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung in Munich organized an extensive Dubuffet retrospective.

Jean Dubuffet’s works are in several museum collections such as: Hishhorn Museum, Washington, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Palazzap Grassi, Venice, Tate Gallery, London, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Image: Jean Dubuffet (detail), 1976 © Archives Fondation Dubuffet, Paris -Photo by Kurt Wyss