"Portraits and landscapes must come together and it is more or less the same thing, I want portraits where the depiction follows the same mechanism as that of the depiction of a landscape, here ripples and ravines, there a nose, here trees, there a mouth and a house."
"There is no doubt that Jean Dubuffet has decided to carry us far away, but where?" wrote Max Loreau in his foreword to the Fascicule V of the catalogue of Jean Dubuffet's work: Paysages grotesques (Grotesque Landscapes). Grotesque because, as he had previously done in the Portraits, the artist here breaks totally with the common places of traditional landscapes scenes. But also grotesque because, indeed, the landscape has nothing to do with a "completed spectacle". It becomes instead an invitation to mental wanderings.
From Marionnettes de la ville et de la campagne (Marionnettes of the city and the country) to Corps de Dames (Women's bodies) and Non-Lieux (Non-places), to name but a few, Dubuffet's works are organised around an important number of consecutive series which constitute, every time, a change in style and vision of the world. Like all great artists, Dubuffet subjects his models to the artistic demands of his new series. The traditional genres of painting: the portrait, the representation of the female nude, the landscape or still life, are revisited in each new opus and reinterpreted through the new pictorial language he develops.
In this, Paysages Grotesques not only constitutes a major development in the history of art but also prefigures revolutionary pictorial techniques of the time as Dubuffet employs an important number of materials in his compositions which are neither bucolic, nor heroic, and far from the romantic ideal. He uses sand, gravel, tar, plaster, coal, stones and asphalt that he boils in a pot and spreads across the canvas with a trowel, a soup spoon, a knife or his fingers thus metamorphosing the countryside, endowing a work such as Paysage gris aux taches cerises with a rare and singular presence.
The pictorial matter seems to rise up like fertile earth on the cusp of germination. The paintings hit the gaze, "either by representing a relief, or by figuring a living being, living a singular life midway between existence and non-existence, between the real and the imaginary, halfway between belonging to the place objectively represented in the painting or only to the artist's mental world." (Jean Dubuffet, Collège de Pataphysique, documentation published by Noël Arnaud). A beautiful lesson on the alchemy of painting.
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