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Jean Dubuffet

Works on Paper

JEAN DUBUFFET: Works on Paper, Installation view at Van de Weghe, New York.

JEAN DUBUFFET: Works on Paper, Installation view at Van de Weghe, New York.

Press Release

Van de Weghe is pleased to present an exhibition of works on paper by Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985).  Born in Le Havre, France to a family of wine merchants, Dubuffet moved to Paris in 1918 to study painting at the Academie Julian, becoming close friends with the artists Juan Gris, André Masson and Fernand Léger. He left after six months, however, in order to study independently, finding academic training stifling. Dubuffet developed a variety of interests from music and poetry to the study of ancient languages and travelled widely.  He developed his wine business, making art just intermittently, before fully devoting himself to it in 1942.


Influenced in part by Hans Prinzhorn’s book, Artistry of the Mentally Ill, Dubuffet is best known for his invention of the term art brut to characterize work by untrained artists including psychiatric patients, prisoners and children.  He felt that this work manifests a universal creative urge which culture and academia generally discourages with its reliance on reason and logic.  Dubuffet felt that the simple life of everyday humans had an unpretentious and effortless poetry.  He rejected traditional standards of beauty in favor of what he believed to be a more authentic and humanistic approach to image-making. Dubuffet drew inspiration from these ideas for his own work, tapping into his primal and spiritual energies. 


The works on view date mostly from the early 1960s when Dubuffet utilized textural effects to address problems of figure and ground in a series of ink drawings. He dismisses the concept of perspective in favor of a more direct, two-dimensional presentation of space.  Paysage, 1960, dispenses with the figure all together in favor of the teeming activity of a micro landscape.  The work is an amalgam of dots, dashes and splatters of ink encompassing the paper in its entirety. In two works from 1960, each titled Personnage dans un paysage, the human figure simultaneously emerges from and melds with its surroundings, indicating a continuity between man and nature.  One of three works that focus on the figure itself, Tête de profile, 1960 employs a range of improvisational mark-making, evoking the figure as a kind of ecosystem whose energy can barely be contained by the body.


Drawing was a pivotal force in Dubuffet’s artistic development and we can see its counterparts throughout the artist’s work in other media: painting, printmaking, sculpture. It is Dubuffet’s “unlearning” of art history and academic technique and his focus on the urgent need to create as his main subject that remains fresh and fascinating.  Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, from 10:00am to 6:00pm, and by appointment.  For further information, please contact Jenn Viola at