- Jean Dubuffet
- Georges Dubuffet au Jardin
- signed and dated 56; signed, titled, dated décembre 55 and inscribed (assemblage) on the reverse
- oil and canvas collage on canvas
- 60 1/2 by 36 in. 153.7 by 91.4 cm.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York (gift of the above circa 1964)
Stephen Hahn Gallery, New York
Christian Fayt Art Gallery, Belgium
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1991
New York, Museum of Modern Art; Dallas, Museum for Contemporary Arts; and San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art, The Art of Assemblage, October 1961 - April 1962, p. 95, no. 71, illustrated in color
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Jean Dubuffet at the Museum of Modern Art, October 1968, no. 51
Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, Jean Dubuffet: 1901-1985, December 1990 - March 1991, p. 121, no. 139, illustrated in color
Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Dubuffet, March - June 1993, p. 95, no. 53, illustrated in color
Cahiers du Collège de 'pataphysique' dossiers 10 & 11, Paris, 1960, p. 14, illustrated
Pierre Guéguen, "Jean Dubuffet, chef de file du tachisme et de l'informel," Aujourd'hui - Art et Architecture, No. 29, Paris, December 1960, p. 16, illustrated
Lorenza Trucchi, Jean Dubuffet, Rome, 1965, p. 215, no. 182, illustrated
Max Loreau, Ed., Catalogue des Traveaux de Jean Dubuffet, Fascicule XII: Tableaux d'assemblages, Paris, 1969, p. 25, no. 11, illustrated
Max Loreau, Jean Dubuffet: Délits, Déportements, Lieux de Haut Jeu, Paris, 1971, p. 203, illustrated
Andreas Franzke, Dubuffet, New York, 1981, p. 108, illustrated
Marcel Paquet, Dubuffet, Paris, 1993, p. 115, no. 148, illustrated in color
Exh. Cat., Vienna, Kunsthaus Wien, Dubuffet, 1995, p. 18, no. 9, illustrated in color
Laurent Danchin, Jean Dubuffet, Paris, 2001, p. 96, illustrated in color
Stéphanie Jamet-Chavigny and Françoise Levaillant, L'Art de l'Assemblage: Relectures, Reenes, France, 2011, p. 36, no. 5, illustrated in color
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Resounding with extraordinary vivacity and formal complexity, Jean Dubuffet’s riveting 1956 assemblage Georges Dubuffet au Jardin is a work of exceptional significance that delights in its resplendent beauty. Formerly in the unrivaled collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Georges Dubuffet au Jardin entered MoMA’s collection in 1964 as a gift of Mr. and Mrs. William H. Weintraub, alongside other important works now in the museum’s collection such as Joan Miró’s Woman (Opera Singer) (1934) and Fernand Léger’s Circus Family (1941). The tremendous import of Georges Dubuffet au Jardin is further attested by its storied exhibition history, having been displayed not only in countless of the artist’s retrospectives, but also even more notably selected for inclusion in the critical exhibition The Art of Assemblage organized by William C. Seitz for the Museum of Modern Art in 1961. This exhibition, which contextualized the practice of collage and the use of found objects across the work of artists as varied as Dubuffet, Alberto Burri, Georges Braque, Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell, Robert Rauschenberg, Bruce Conner, and Ed Kienholz, continues to be considered by scholars as one of the most important exhibitions of postwar art history. Depicting at an impressive scale a portrait of Dubuffet’s father standing amidst the luscious, verdant foliage of the South of France, Georges Dubuffet au Jardin is a triumph that poignantly reverberates with the tender affection the artist held towards those that were closest to him.
In 1955, Dubuffet left Paris for a house in the town of Vence. Deeply affected by the horrific trauma and ravage caused by war, the artist turned his back on urban life in favor of a rediscovered contact with nature. Motivated by the environment, Dubuffet’s paintings executed in this period took on the seductive appeal of the graphic textures created from naturally occurring phenomena found in the soil and topography of the landscape. Georges Dubuffet au Jardin embodies Dubuffet’s career-long interest in the metamorphic qualities of landscape, and the relationship between figure and ground as articulated through the full-length body within his natural world. Georges Dubuffet au Jardin belongs to the artist’s Tableaux d'assemblages, an important series of work dating November 1955 to December 1956, in which the artist arrived at the concept of using pre-painted canvas collage. The Tableaux d’assemblages were prompted by Dubuffet’s new environment in Vence, as well as his desire to transfer the technique of his earlier butterfly collages to painting. By cutting the canvas directly, he negated the need for pencil drawing and allowed the scissors to dictate the realization of the composition, often solely by intuition. The method allowed the artist to experiment with newfound textures and depths in the picture plane, while excavating the mythological properties of the earth. As Raphaël Bouvier explains of the Tableaux d'assemblages, “The anthropomorphic structure of the landscape and earth… may be read as an allusion to the myth according to which land and the landscape were created by the dismemberment of a monster’s body. In dissecting nature, the artist reveals not only an anatomical and geological perception of landscape, but also a mythological view of its essence. An underlying search for the archaic and the primeval…” (Raphaël Bouvier, Exh. Cat., Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Jean Dubuffet: Metamorphoses of Landscape, 2016, p. 17) An act that was generative only by way of destruction, assemblage became a foundational principle of Dubuffet’s oeuvre; constantly hunting for the rich, pictorially inventive effects afforded by the chance juxtapositions of his technique.
Here, Dubuffet’s canvas collage, predominated by radiant jewel-like emerald tones, gives the effect of a stained glass mosaic in its shimmering translucency. Moreover, the mineral palette embodies Dubuffet’s fascination in the natural world, reflecting the color spectrum of the landscape. The rectangular pieces of speckled and pebbled canvases are arranged like puzzle pieces, emulating the variegated surface of the landscape by their layering and accumulation. Dubuffet’s experimentation with assemblage began in the summer of 1953, when following a trip to the Savoie with Pierre Bettencourt, the artist began to produce small collages from butterfly wings. The artist continued his interest in non-art materials the subsequent year, using raw coal and sponges to make a small group of figurative sculptures. Dubuffet’s methods of chance and spontaneity reached its climax in the years of 1955 and 1956, when the artist began preparing lengths of canvas with strongly dense patterns of stains, imprints, and smears: after cutting these canvases up into an inventory of random shapes and sizes, Dubuffet would assemble various pieces into landscapes and figures. The artist described his attachment to assemblage: “I can affirm that that technique, for anyone willing to consider it as at least a factor in improvisation and experimentation, as a means of sparking off the imagination, as a gymnastic exercise in shaking off handed-down conventions and prejudices that inhibit one, as an instigation to invention in all domains (subjects, composition drawing, coloring)… is in all events extremely stimulating and fertile… Moreover, this new technique of assemblage gave me, as soon as I started on it, the impression of lending itself perfectly to treating the subjects that had been so much in my mind… the roadbed, the grasses and little plants pushing through along the sides, the foot of a wall…” (the artist quoted in Mildred Glimcher, Jean Dubuffet: Towards an Alternative Reality, New York, 1987, p. 12)
It was Dubuffet himself who, in fact, coined the influential term 'assemblage,' spurring the title of Seitz’s seminal show. Art historian Peter Selz recalled: “There was no word for this [before then,]… what was going on in New York with Rauschenberg and Kienholz in California. And one day I was working on the Dubuffet show… and he coined that word, assemblage, for his collages cut up from previous paintings and put together [recombined]… Bill [Seitz] looked and said ‘Let’s call it Assemblage.’ So, that’s how the term came into being.” (Peter Selz quoted in Paul Karlstrom, Peter Selz: Sketches of a Life in Art, Berkeley, 2012, pp. 88-89) Dubuffet preferred the term ‘assemblage’ over ‘collage,’ suggesting that the ‘collage’ be reserved only for the works made in 1910-1920 by Picasso, Braque, and the Dadaists. His simplicity of media and wholehearted embrace of nature as exemplified by the present work represent a critical moving away from the artificial and the urbane, and a heightened sensitivity to the world around him; “Look at what lies at your feet!” Dubuffet wrote in a 1957 essay, “A crack in the ground, sparkling gravel, a tuft of grass, some crushed debris, offer equally worthy subjects for your applause and admiration.”