Jean Dubuffet Artist Biography

Jean Dubuffet was obsessed with materials and with creating works outside any accepted understanding of what constitutes art. He was closest to the Surrealists and the spirit of the Naive Artists. Jean Dubuffet was born on July 31, 1901, in Le Havre, France. He attended art classes in his youth and in 1918 moved to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, which he left after six months. During this time, Dubuffet met Raoul Dufy, Max Jacob, Fernand Léger, and Suzanne Valadon and became fascinated with Hans Prinzhorn's book on psychopathic art. Doubting the value of art and culture, Jean Dubuffet stopped painting altogether from 1924 to 1933 and worked as an industrial draftsman and later in the family wine business. He made a second abortive attempt at painting between 1933-1937, also making masks and puppets. He began painting again in 1942 and had his first one-man exhibition at the Galerie René Drouin, Paris, in 1944.   

During the 1940s, the artist associated with André Breton, Georges Limbour, Jean Paulhan, and Charles Ratton, and his style and subject matter owed a debt to Paul Klee. From 1945, he collected Art Brut (Raw Art), spontaneous, direct works by untutored individuals, such as the mentally ill and children. He additionally founded the organization Compagnie de l'Art Brut (1948–51) together with writers, critics, and dealers from Dada and Surrealist circles. For the first public Art Brut exhibition at Galerie René Drouin in 1949, Dubuffet published a manifesto in which he proclaimed the style's superiority over officially recognised art. From 1951 to 1952, Jean Dubuffet lived in New York. He then returned to Paris, where a retrospective of his work took place at the Cercle Volney in 1954. His first museum retrospective occurred in 1957 at the Schlo Morsbroich (now Museum Morsbroich), Leverkusen, West Germany. Dubuffet exhibitions were subsequently held at the Musée des arts décoratifs, Paris (1960–61); Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Art Institute of Chicago (1962); Palazzo Grassi, Venice (1964); Tate Gallery, London, and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1966); and Guggenheim Museum (1966–67).

In the early 1960s, he developed a radically new, graphic style, which he called "Hourloupe" - a set of works including oils on canvas, drawings, rigging, assemblages, sculptures, architectures, buildings with three essential colours: red, blue and white fuelled by his subconscious and free from the burden of technical perfection. Jean Dubuffet would deploy them on many important public commissions, but he remains best known for the thick textured and gritty surfaces of his pictures from the 1940s and '50s. A collection of Jean Dubuffet's writings, Prospectus et tous écrits suivants (Prospectus and all subsequent texts), was published in 1967, the same year he started his architectural structures. Soon thereafter, he began numerous commissions for monumental outdoor sculptures. In 1971, he produced his first theater props, the "practicables." A Dubuffet retrospective was presented at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin; Museum moderner Kunst, Vienna; and Joseph-Haubrichkunsthalle, Cologne (1980–81). In 1981, the Guggenheim Museum observed the artist's 80th birthday with an exhibition. He was also the subject of a major retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou (2001). Jean Dubuffet died on May 12, 1985, in Paris.

More art prints from Jean Dubuffet

Theatre De Memoire, 1977 By Jean Dubuffet
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