Jean Dubuffet was an integral French artist known for his primal paintings and sculptures of vernacular subjects and considered one of the pioneers of the Art Brut movement. His adoption of the term Art Brut or raw art, referred to the art of children, prisoners, and the mentally ill, was a reaction to what he called art culturel or refined art. It was his desire to break from tradition by implementing rudimentary mark making and emulsions made from sand, tar, and trash, as seen in his work Grand Maitre of the Outsider (1946). “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,” the artist said. “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.”
Born in 1901, in France, Dubuffet left home at age 17 to study art in Paris. After completing his studies, he stopped painting and spent the next 20 years as a wine merchant, factory worker, and soldier, none of which ended successfully.
He returned to painting at the age of 41, spending the next 40 years in a state of prolific creation working in various avant-garde styles and embracing obscure materials in his art. While working in Paris, he befriended some of the most outspoken intellectuals of the day including the poet Henri Michaux (Belgian, 1899–1984) and the critic Jean Paulhan(French, 1884–1968), both influential in his artistic discovery. In 1951 he delivered his famous lecture, Anticultural Positions, in which he promoted the values of savagery and madness as a way of escaping from the false artistic values revered in Western Society. Throughout the 1950s, he continued to experiment with raw materials in his art as a way of engaging the primitive values to which he sought to return. In 1962, Dubuffet developed his famous Hourloupe style, producing many works including several large sculptures that are among his most widely-known today.
Jean Dubuffet died on May 12, 1985 in Paris, France at the age of 83. Today, his works can be found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
Jean Dubuffet, Annale XI, 1978, Black felt and collage on paper, 50 x 38 cm