Dubuffet, Jean (1901–1985) By Shaw, Jill
Jean Dubuffet was an experimental artist who embraced unconventional materials and investigated different media; his style and the content of his work varied greatly throughout his career. While he tried his hand at art as a younger man, it was not until 1942, at the age of forty-one, in German-occupied France, that Dubuffet committed himself to producing art full-time. In the fall of 1944, Dubuffet held his first solo exhibition at Galerie René Drouin in Paris. Exhibiting garishly colored paintings featuring mundane subjects—including cows and suburban street façades—rendered in a crude, graffiti-like manner, Dubuffet agitated many critics with his perceived adoption of an anti-establishment aesthetic and philosophy. Nonetheless, he quickly ascended in the Paris and American art scenes upon developing a technique—influenced by the thickly impastoed works of Jean Fautrier—in which he incised compositional forms into thick layers of paint that had been mixed with materials such as grit, gravel, and glass. The resulting highly complex textured surfaces were a feature of Dubuffet’s best known works of the 1940s, including his series of caricatured and unflattering portraits of intellectuals in the circle of Jean Paulhan, the writer and editor who is often considered Dubuffet’s most important early champion. Dubuffet was a co-founder of the Compagnie de l’Art Brut in the late 1940s.