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Jean Dubuffet

1901 - 1985

The destiny of Jean Dubuffet, a painter and sculptor born in Le Havre in 1901, remains inseparable from Art brut, a notion he theorised and popularised after the war. Inspired by his interest in unusual art, that of children, madmen and marginalised people, he was the author of an immense and protean body of work that makes him one of the most innovative artists of the twentieth century.

Born into a family of wine merchants, Dubuffet arrived in Paris in 1918 to devote himself to painting. He attended the Académie Julian which he quickly left to settle in his own studio. Discouraged by academism, worried about his own approach, he painted intermittently and continued to earn his living in the wine trade before definitively devoting himself to his art in 1942. Dubuffet made a dramatic entrance onto the artistic scene with the opening of his first solo exhibition at the René Drouin Gallery in Paris on October 20th, 1944. “Completely devoid of any accepted skill of the kind usually found in paintings made by professional painters,” in his own words, the works of this as-yet unknown artist provoked a real scandal. Seeming to violate moral and cultural values, Dubuffet’s art continued to be met with misunderstanding by part of the public, a feeling which has barely dissipated today.

Dubuffet’s approach was serial and consisted of different cycles accompanied by theoretical writings. His practice encompassed many fields: painting, drawing, assemblage, music, sculpture and architecture, with as its central point, a fierce “anti-cultural” dimension – that is, a rejection of any stultifying academicism. This irreverent posture led him to produce a rich, experimental, whimsical and original body of work, unaffiliated to any artistic current. In 1962, he began the most famous and the longest of his cycles, that of the Hourloupe, which occupied him until 1974. It includes several habitable sculptures, such as the Groupe des quatre arbres, created on the request of David Rockfeller for the Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York, or the Closerie Falbala in Périgny-sur-Yerres, which now houses most of the foundation that Dubuffet created in 1973.

Attracted by the art of people living on the margins, Dubuffet gradually acquired a large collection of works which he exhibited in 1947 in the basement of the Drouin gallery, which had become the Foyer de l’Art Brut. Transferred in 1948 to the Parisian pavilion of the Nouvelle Revue française, on loan from the publisher Gaston Gallimard, it took the name of Compagnie de l’Art Brut and captured the interest of many artists and intellectuals including Claude Levi-Strauss, Henri Michaux and Joan Miró. The collection, which includes 5,000 works by more than 130 creators, was finally transferred to Lausanne, where the Collection de l’Art Brut was founded in 1976. In L’Art brut préféré aux arts culturels, a catalogue published to accompany the exhibition held in 1949 at the Drouin Gallery, Dubuffet clarified his definition of Art brut: ““True art is always where you don’t expect it. Where nobody thinks about it or says its name. Art hates to be recognised and hailed by its name…”

Regularly exhibited in Europe and the United States, his work was first exhibited in an institutional retrospective at the Museum of Decorative Arts in 1960, followed by that of WOAgri in New York in 1962. Other important exhibitions followed, culminating with the Venice Biennale in 1983, where France entrusted him with its pavilion. Dubuffet remains the most controversial and admired artist of the second half of the twentieth century. The numerous public collections featuring his work include the Kunstmuseum in Basel, the National Gallery in Berlin, the Tate Modern in London, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the MET and the MOMA in New York, the Centre Pompidou and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

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“To those for whom the world does not appear to their taste, I advise them not to try to change the world but to change their taste.”

Jean Dubuffet

Jean Dubuffet in his studio, 1964. Photo Max Loreau © Archives Fondation Dubuffet, Paris


Jean Dubuffet, Le ravin


Jean Dubuffet, Les lunettes


Art Fairs


The Choice of Painting

February 10th - June 9th, 2024

Tessé Museum, Le Mans

The Tessé Museum is presenting the exhibition “The Choice of Painting, Another History of Abstraction, 1962-1989” from February 10th to June 9th, 2024. It offers a panorama of three decades of abstract painting in France, from the 1960s to the 1980s. How did artists kept on painting when the trend, starting from the 1960s, gazed […]

The Choice of Painting

Sur les pas de Dubuffet en Auvergne

8 juillet - 30 octobre 2022

Musée d’art Roger-Quilliot, Clermont-Ferrand

Jean Dubuffet est une figure majeure du XXe siècle dont l’œuvre et la pensée prolifiques ont marqué durablement la scène artistique moderne et contemporaine. Près de 40 ans après sa mort, l’exposition Sur les pas de Dubuffet en Auvergne présentée à partir du 8 juillet 2022 au Musée d’art Roger-Quilliot apportera un regard neuf sur […]

Sur les pas de Dubuffet en Auvergne

At the heart of Abstraction Works from the collection of the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art

July 2 - November 22, 2022

Fondation Maeght

The exhibition at the Fondation Maeght will show works from the collection of the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art from the 2nd of July until the 20th of November 2022 and offers an immersion in the vibrant creation of the years 1945 to 1980. Home to a collection of more than 13,000 works, Fondation Maeght is […]

At the heart of Abstraction Works from the collection of the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art


February 25, 2022 - August 21, 2022

Musée Guggenheim Bilbao

At the end of World War II, Jean Dubuffet (1901–1985) began exhibiting paintings that defied entrenched artistic values. He rejected principles of decorum and classical beauty, along with pretentions of expertise. Instead, he looked to the commonplace and the unheralded, employing crude materials, mundane subjects, and a style that spurned any outward sign of academic […]


Jean Dubuffet

December 3, 2021 - June 6, 2022

Fondation Gianadda, Martigny, Switzerland

La magnifique rétrospective Jean Dubuffet présentée à la Fondation Pierre Gianadda, en collaboration avec le Centre Georges-Pompidou à Paris, propose une relecture du travail du grand défenseur de «  l’Art Brut ». Bien qu’il ait, paradoxalement, refusé la culture dominante, les écoles, les courants et les techniques enseignées, son œuvre occupe une place majeure dans le paysage artistique […]

Jean Dubuffet

Pierre Matisse, an Art Dealer in New York

June 11 - October 4, 2021

Musée Matisse Nice

Curated by: Claudine Grammont Hosting a large exhibition devoted to Pierre Matisse, the Musée Matisse revisits the exceptional career of Henri Matisse’s youngest son, a New York art dealer and a key figure of the 20th century art world. For about sixty years, the Pierre Matisse Gallery played a prominent role in the art world: […]

Pierre Matisse, an Art Dealer in New York

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