Jean Dubuffet [1901 – 1985]

Self Portrait
French painter and sculptor

Jean Philippe Arthur Dubuffet

was born,
31 July, 1901
in Le Havre, France

Dubuffet, born to a family of wholesale wine merchants who were part of the wealthy bourgeoisie, began painting at the age of seventeen and studied briefly at the Académie Julian, Paris. After seven years, he abandoned painting and became a wine merchant. During the thirties, he painted again for a short time, but he began making art in earnest at age 41. The next four decades were tremendously prolific: he wrote poetry and theoretical texts, played jazz, experimented widely with art-making materials and techniques, and worked in many mediums, including painting, drawing, printmaking, large-scale outdoor sculpture, and what he called “animated painting”—works bridging painting, sculpture, dance, and theater, and featuring live performers.

His idealistic approach to aesthetics embraced so called “low art” and eschewed traditional standards of beauty in favor of what he believed to be a more authentic and humanistic approach to image-making. He is perhaps best known for founding the art movement Art Brut, and for the collection of works—Collection de l’art brut—that this movement spawned. Dubuffet enjoyed a prolific art career, both in France and in America, and was featured in many exhibitions throughout his lifetime.

Dubuffet is a painter/artist who was introduced to me by my father and I’m truly grateful he did!

So here’s a glimpse of his work & words
Grand Jazz Band (New Orleans) [ΜοΜΑ]

“Art should be born from the materials.”

Soil Ornamented with Vegetation, Dead Leaves, Pebbles, Diverse Debris [MoMA]
The Cow with the Subtile Nose [MoMA]

“With respect to the use of this sparkling coloured material (butterfly wings around 1955, fh) – the constituent parts of which remain indistinguishable – with the aim of producing a very vivid effect of scintillation, I realised that, for me, this responds to needs of the same order as those that formerly led me, in many drawings and paintings, to organize my lines and patches of colour so that the objects represented would meld into everything around them, so that the result would be a sort of continuous, universal soup with an intensive flavour of life.”

Wall and Man [MoMA]
The Violinist [MoMA]
Offres galantes [Vinyl on canvas]

“I have tried to draw the human effigy (and all the other subjects dealt with in my paintings) in an immediate and effective way without any reference to the aesthetic.”

Monsieur Plume with Creases in his Trousers (Portrait of Henri Michaux) [Oil paint and grit on canvas – Tate]
The Exemplary Life of the Soil (Texturology LXIII) [Oil paint on canvas – Tate]

“When I want to draw a camel I no longer limit myself, as I once did, to looking only at camels.”

Large Black Landscape [Oil paint on hardboard – Tate]
Nimble Free Hand to the Rescue [Acrylic paint on canvas – Tate]

“What seems interesting to me is to reproduce in the figurative representation of an object the whole complex system of impressions we receive in the normal course of everyday life, the way this affects our feelings and the shape it takes in our memory; and it is to this that I have always applied myself.”

Childbirth [MoMA]
Typist [from ‘Matter and Memory’] [Lithograph on paper – Tate]

“I have always directed my attempts at the figurative representation of objects by way of summary and not very descriptive brushstrokes, diverging greatly from the real objective measurements of things, and this has led many people to talk about childish drawing.. ..this position of seeing them (the objects, fh) without looking at them too much, without focussing more attention on them than any ordinary man would in normal everyday life..”

Gold and Shadow [from ‘Land Registry’] [Lithograph on paper – Tate]
Vicissitudes [Acrylic paint on paper and canvas – Tate]

“I do not see in what way the face of a man should be a less interesting landscape than any other. A man, the physical person of a man, is a little world, like any other a country, with its towns, and suburbs.. ..As a rule what is needed in a portrait is a great deal of the general, and very little of the particular.”

Cyclist with Five Cows [MoMA]
The Busy Life [Oil paint on canvas – Tate]

“There is no art without intoxication. But I mean a mad intoxication! Let reason teeter! Delirium! The highest degree of delirium! Plunged in burning dementia! Art is the most enrapturing orgy within man’s reach.. Art must make you laugh a little and make you a little afraid. Anything as long as it doesn’t bore.”

Fern in the Hat [Lithograph on paper – Tate]
Four Bedouins with an Overloaded Camel [MoMA]

“For me, insanity is super sanity. The normal is psychotic. Normal means lack of imagination, lack of creativity.”

Memorable Facts III from the series Memorable Facts
Spinning Round [Oil paint on canvas – Tate]

“Dancing is the last word in life. In dancing one draws nearer to oneself.”

Man Eating a Small Stone [MoMA]
Pollination of Palm Trees [MoMA]

“Personally, I believe very much in values of savagery; I mean: instinct, passion, mood, violence, madness.”

The Tree of Fluids [Oil paint on canvas – Tate]
Inhabited Landscape [Lithograph on paper – Tate]

“Art is a language, an instrument of knowledge, an instrument of communication.”

Leaves with Bird [Lithograph on paper – Tate]
Leisure Time

“Unless one says goodbye to what one loves, and unless one travels to completely new territories, one can expect merely a long wearing away of oneself and an eventual extinction.”

Soul of the Underground
Site Inhabited by Objects [Acrylic paint on canvas – Tate]

“Art is the most frenzied orgy man is capable of.”

Snack for Two [MoMA]
Peopling of the Lands [Lithograph on paper – Tate]

“Man’s need for art is absolutely primordial, as strong as, and perhaps stronger than, our need for bread. Without bread, we die of hunger, but without art we die of boredom.”

Apartment Houses, Paris
Figure with Hat in a Landscape
Man with a Hod [Paper and ink on paper – Tate]

“I would like people to see my work as a rehabilitation of scorned values and, in any case, make no mistake about it, a work of ardent celebration.”

Long nose and September chair
Smile [MoMA]

“I have always been haunted by the feeling that the painter has much to gain from making use of the forces that tend to work against his action”

Self Portrait



Accompanied by…

The Artist’s Studio: Jean Dubuffet

A film by Michael Blackwood [trailer]

Jean Dubuffet – The Deep End

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Jean Dubuffet: An Urban Imagination

Curator Dr Sophie Berrebi introduces ‘Jean Dubuffet and the City’ at Hauser & Wirth Zürich

Jean Dubuffet – The Butterfly Man


Jean Dubuffet


Jean Dubuffet & Music

❝ I believe that our western music is an avatar among all the possibilities that were offered to music. Now, by an optical error, one imagines that this is the only music possible, while, in reality, it is only a very specious music among millions of possibilities that were available and, without doubt, will be available tomorrow… In my music I wanted to place myself in the position of a man of fifty thousand years ago, a man who ignores everything about western music and invents a music for himself without any reference, without any discipline, without anything that would prevent him to express himself freely and for his own good pleasure. This is what I wanted to do in my painting too, only with this difference that painting, I know it–western painting of the last few centuries, I know it perfectly well–and I wanted to deliberately forget all about it. But I do not know music, and this gave me a certain advantage in my musical experiences. I did not have to make an effort to forget whatever I had to forget.
I find that true music should not be written, that all written music is a false music, that the musical notation which has been adopted in the west, with its notes on the staves and its twelve notes per octave, is a very poor notation which does not permit to notate the sounds and only allows the making of a totally specious music which has nothing to do with true music. It is impossible to write true music, except with a stylus on the wax, and this is what they do now in recordings. This is a way of writing and the only one that’s proper to music.❞

Jean Dubuffet

Jean Dubuffet – Pleure et Applaudit

Composed, performed, recorded and realized by Jean Dubuffet

For anyone interested in seeing his work, there’s an upcoming exhibition Sep 18–Oct 24, 2020, at the Pace Gallery / New York []

…covid permitting of course!

For more information on Dubuffet:


Be Safe 🏡

23 replies »

  1. Although I’d heard of Dubuffet and must have seen a few of his works in art museums, only now, thanks to all the examples you’ve provided, do I have a sense of what characterizes his work. The second quotation from him includes the phrase “universal soup,” which reminded me of a line from Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl”: “the total animal soup of time.”

  2. The French can put such a nice spin on things. Interestingly, some of his work looks almost North American First Nations… with a bit of Americana thrown in. But then again, the French and American flag colors are the same, so who knows…

  3. This is a unique and interesting artist. I really dislike some of his pieces, and really LOVE others.
    He has a fab free spirit and path of thoughts. I appreciate that, and it does inspire me to try something new.
    I did listen to his music. Again, unique and interesting. His music sounds like his art looks.
    Thank you so much for this wonderful art post, Marina! Let me see if I can express it in emojis?

    • With you! Also, I wasn’t particularly …smitten by his music [couldn’t help but laugh at a comment I saw under one of his musical pieces in you tube “I have a copy of this if someone wants it.”] I can understand where this comes from though.
      😂🤣Love the emoji expression!!!!!!!!!!👍

  4. Never heard of this artist before but wow! I love his childlike-yet-playfully-dark style in many of the paintings. So many influences I can see in his work! 😀

    • I hadn’t either and probably wouldn’t have if it weren’t for my father showing me his work. Yes, I can see those influences too [well, all artists have those… ;-)] Happy August, my friend! 🙂

  5. I am astonished and embarrassed to say I did not know of this amazing artist. Thank you for the introduction. There is too much to absorb. But – warning to the Tate – next time I’m there I’m going to steal something.

Happy to hear your thoughts

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