A Year: Day to Day Men: 31st of July, Solar Year 2018

Oh, Happy Day

July 31, 1901 was the birthdate of French painter and sculptor Jean Dubuffet.

In 1945, Jean Dubuffet, impressed with painter Jean Fautrier’s abstract paintings, started to use thick oil paint mixed with materials such as mud, straw, pebbles, sand, plaster, and tar. He abandoned the tradition use of the brush; instead, he worked with a paste into which he could create physical marks, scratches and slashes. These impasto paintings, the ‘Hautes Pâtes’ series, he exhibited at his show in 1946 at the Galery Rene Drouin. He received some backlash from the critics but also some positive feedback as well.

Jean Dubuffet achieved rapid success in the American art market, largely due to his inclusion in the Pierre Matisse exhibition in 1946. His association with Matisse proved to be very beneficial. Dubuffet’s work was placed among the likes of Picasso, Braque, and Rouault at the gallery exhibit; he was only one of two young artists to be honored in this manner. In 1947, Dubuffet had his first solo exhibition in America, in the same gallery as the Matisse exhibition. Reviews were largely favorable, and this resulted in Dubuffet having a regularly scheduled exhibition at that gallery.

In his earlier paintings, Dubuffet dismissed the concept of perspective in favor of a more direct, two-dimensional presentation of space. Instead, Dubuffet created the illusion of perspective by crudely overlapping objects within the picture plane. Dubuffet’s “Hourloupe” style in later paintings developed from a chance doodle while he was on the telephone. The basis of it was a tangle of clean black lines that forms cells, which are sometimes filled with unmixed color. Dubuffet believed the style evoked the manner in which objects appear in the mind. This contrast between physical and mental representation later encouraged him to use the approach to create sculpture.

Between 1945 and 1947, Jean Dubuffet took three separate trips to Algeria—a French colony at the time in order to find further artistic inspiration. He was fascinated by the nomadic nature of the tribes in Algeria, particularly the ephemeral quality of their existence. The impermanence of this kind of movement attracted Dubuffet and became a facet of the new Art Brut movement.

Dubuffet coined the term art brut, meaning “raw art”, for artwork produced by non-professionals working outside aesthetic norms, such as art by psychiatric patients, prisoners, and children. He felt that the simple life of the everyday human being contained more art and poetry than did academic art, or great painting. Dubuffet found the latter to be isolating, mundane, and pretentious,  He sought to create in his own work an art free from intellectual concerns; and as a result, his work often appears primitive and childlike.

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