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Jean Dubuffet

introduction

Jean Dubuffet was born in Le Havre in July 1901, into a bourgeois family of wine and spirits merchants. He developed a true fascination for art and nature very early on. Once he had passed his baccalaureate, he headed off to the capital to take drawing and painting classes, against his father’s wishes. After just a few months, Dubuffet turned his back on his academic training in order to freely devote himself to his vision of art. He frequented the intellectual circles of Montmartre and formed friendships with Suzanne Valadon and Elie Lascaux. He also met André Masson and Fernand Léger, who supported the young artist in his plans to free pictorial practice. However, he had strong doubts concerning the legitimacy of his status and he stopped painting in 1924 for eight years. He opened a wine business and started a family but this conventional new life fell apart in 1934. Dubuffet picked up painting again and returned to his aesthetic foundations. Financial problems and the Great War again upset his chosen path until 1942, when he was able to dedicate himself to his art once more. He studied lithography and worked on various media.

For the composition of his paintings, Dubuffet turned increasingly towards the use of unusual materials such as tar, plaster, cement and gravel. A conceptual turning point occurred in 1945, during a trip to Switzerland accompanied by Jean Paulhan and Le Corbusier, where he studied the artwork of mentally handicapped patients within the framework of his research into Art Brut. Five years later, during his journey to the United States, the artist made a speech, Anticultural positions, in Chicago, strongly criticizing sterile Western culture which he considered no longer corresponded to “real life”. Dubuffet continued his experimentations with different materials in his assemblage paintings, Topographies, Texturologies and Phénomènes. In 1962, a new creative and prolific cycle began with L’Hourloupe; two-dimensional drawings and paintings became protean sculptures, adapting to the broader field of architecture. This project led to Coucou Bazar, a complete show presented for the first time in New York at the Guggenheim Museum in 1973. He created his own foundation the same year in order to ensure the continuity of his work. Dubuffet would continue to create and reflect upon his artistic practice until the end of his life. He died in Paris in May 1985.

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