Paris, Cercle Volney, Jean Dubuffet, 1954, no. 69
Leverkusen, Schloss Morsbroich, Jean Dubuffet Rétrospective, 1957, no. 18
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Jean Dubuffet: 1942-1960, 1960, p. 219, no. 88, pl. 39, illustrated
Cologne, Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Jean Dubuffet, 1965
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Jean Dubuffet, 1995, no. 24, illustrated
New York, Museum of Modern Art (on temporary loan)
Oslo, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Sal Haaken, 2003, p. 79, illustrated in colour
Jean Dubuffet’s Chevalier Vagabond belongs to an important series of works executed during 1951-52 which saw Dubuffet achieving a more expressive Brut texture in the surfaces of his work. Epitomising his desire to interact directly with what he saw as the inherently animate nature of the materials, Chevalier Vagabond is one of Dubuffet’s earliest explorations with the paste-like Swedish Putty that distinguishes the sculptural surface and energy of these works. Rather than imposing his will upon the composition, Dubuffet here mixes and scrapes the materials into a vibrant, living surface to create an organic union from which the painting emerges. The textural depth and energy of the surface exposes Dubuffet’s fascination with the flowing continuity of surface – something he experienced first hand during his trip to the Sahara desert.
Chevalier Vagabond is one of Dubuffet’s most powerful works and importantly combines many of the aesthetic and thematic concerns from his prodigiously varied oeuvre. Here the flattened, inscribed rawness of the Corps de Dames series of 1950 is enriched and brought to life by the topographical spontaneity of his mental landscapes. The semi-figurative and organic composition here also reflects Dubuffet’s early interest in abstract expression, which was to fully develop in his final series, the L’Hourloupe. As forms simultaneously coalesce and disintegrate across the expressively furrowed surface of the Chevalier’s body, the human form is transformed into a landscape or matrix of self-generating, earthy patterns. This extraordinary relief and feeling of evolution in flux is dynamically enhanced by the layering of the deep crimson hues which seem to erupt across the surface with freshness and intensity. The variety of colours and textures ingrained upon the terrain of the canvas suggest a number of associations. From ancient ruins and graffiti to archeological excavations, the fluidity of the material combined with the raw energy of its execution transform the composition into a powerful metaphor for the transience and fragility of existence.
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