Jean Dubuffet

“I must say that my feeling is – always has been – very strong that the key to things must not be as we imagine it, but that the world must be ruled by strange system of which we have not the slightest inkling. This is why I rush towards strange things. I am quite convinced that truth is strange it is at the far end of strangeness that one has a chance to find the key to things.”

Jean Dubuffet was born in Le Havre, France on July 31, 1907. In 1918, he moved to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, but left the school after six months, and spent his time socializing with artist such as Raoul Dufy and Fernand Leger. Six years later, Dubuffet left his work in art to ender the family wine business.

In 1942, however, Dubuffet returned to the art world, receiving his first solo show at Galerie René Drouin (Paris) two years later. This helped to establish Dubuffet as one of the post-war era artist, associating with colleagues such as André Breton, and being influenced by the work of Paul Klee. “Art brut,” however, is a term better used to describe Dubuffet’s work. Coined by Dubuffet himself, “art brut” refers to work created by children, the mentally ill and psychotics, in addition to street graffiti. Dubuffet was attracted to this type of art, because he felt that it reflected the creative drive of the inner mind, rather than acting as a product of stylized influence. Thus, Dubuffet aimed at creating this type of free-willed, uninhibited art in his own work. Furthermore, it is also important to note that even though Dubuffet was high interested in African culture, having traveled to the Sahara on three separate occasions and spending time in Algers as a child, he believed there was a strict difference between tribal or folk art, and the work he aimed at imitating; Dubuffet felt the former followed too many stylistic traditions therefore deeming it impure and uninteresting.

Dubuffet’s career greatly profited when he met Pierre Matisse in 1945. Two years later, Dubuffet began exhibiting at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York, and showed there until 1959. During this time, Dubuffet also enjoyed the first retrospective of his career, held at the Galerie Rive Gauche (Paris) in 1951. Following his relationship with the Pierre Matisse Gallery, Dubuffet moved to Galerie Beyeler, he also founded the Dubuffet Foundation in France in 1974.

In addition to his 1951 show at Galerie Rive Gauche, many other retrospectives of his work were held through out Dubuffet’s life; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), the Tate Gallery (London) and the Museum of Modern Art (New York) are just a few of the institutions at which these exhibitions occurred. Dubuffet was also greatly honored in 1981 when both the Guggenheim (New York) and Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris) held shows in celebration of his 80th birthday. Dubuffet passed away four years later on May 12, 1985 in Paris.