Lot 7
  • 7

Jean Dubuffet

3,500,000 - 5,000,000 EUR
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  • Jean Dubuffet
  • Les Riches fruits de l'erreur
  • signed, dedicated à Max Loreau and dated 63; signed, titled and dated mars 63 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 114 x 146 cm; 44  7/8  x 57  1/2  in.
  • Executed on 12 March 1963.


Max Loreau, Brussels (acquired from the artist)
Waddington Galleries, London
Galerie Xavier Hufkens, Brussels
Private collection, Brussels
Private collection, Paris
Sale: Sotheby's, Paris, Art Contemporain, 5 June 2013, lot 3
Collection Alain & Candice Fraiberger


Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Centro Internazionale delle Arti e del Costume, L'Hourloupe di Jean Dubuffet, 15 June - 15 October 1964; catalogue, n.p., no. 7
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Jean Dubuffet , 1962-66, 25 October 1966 - February 1967; catalogue, n.p., no. 8, illustrated
Basel, Kunsthalle, Jean Dubuffet : L'Hourloupe, 6 June - 2 August 1970; catalogue, no. 9
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Jean Dubuffet: A Retrospective, 26 April - 29 July 1973; catalogue, no. 122 , p. 152, illustrated in colour
Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Jean Dubuffet, 28 September 1973 - 20 December 1973; catalogue, n.p., no. 152
Le Havre, Musée des Beaux-Arts André Malraux, J. Dubuffet : peintures, sculptures, dessins, 18 February - 28 March 1977; catalogue, n.p., no. 22
London, Waddington Galleries, Jean Dubuffet: L'Hourloupe, 12 May - 11 June 1994; catalogue, p. 15, no. 6, illustrated in colour
Paris, Christie's, Tant pis j'y vais j'aime ça. Jean Dubuffet de Paris Circus à L'Hourloupe, 8 - 25 September 2014; catalogue, p. 35, illustrated, pp. 71, 107, illustrated in colour


Lorenza Trucchi, Jean Dubuffet, Rome, 1965, p. 280, no. 268, illustrated
Max Loreau, Dubuffet et le voyage au centre de la perception, Paris, 1966, illustrated
Max Loreau, Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Fascicule XX - L'Hourloupe I, Lausanne, 1966, p. 66, no. 129, illustrated
Rolf-Gunter Dienst, Positionen : Malerische Malerei-Plastische, Cologne, 1968, no. 7, illustrated
Max Loreau, Jean Dubuffet : délits, déportements, lieux de haut-jeu, Paris, 1971, p. 429, illustrated in colour
Max Loreau, Jean Dubuffet : stratégie de la création, Paris, 1973, illustrated
Renato Barilli, Dubuffet : cycle de l'Hourloupe, Paris, 1976, p. 26, no. 26, illustrated
Renato Barilli, Dubuffet : oggetto e progetto, il ciclo dell'Hourloupe, Milan, 1976, p. 26, illustrated
Jacinto Lageira, Le Monde de l'Hourloupe, Paris, 2001, n.p., illustrated in colour
Jean Dubuffet, London, 2004, pp. 28, 29, illustrated in colour
Claude Simon, Oeuvres, Paris, 2006, p. 1451, illustrated
Présences de Claude Simon, 2016, p. 198, illustrated in colour


The colours are fairly accurate in the catalogue illustration, although the overall tonality is brighter in the original work. Please refer to the Contemporary Art department for a professional condition report.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The story of L'Hourloupe's beginnings is well known, the mindless doodles Jean Dubuffet made during long telephone conversations, creating forms free of all representation, tightly fitted together in an unbroken web, and then just as mechanically filled with striped lines in blue or red biro, the result of a simple occupation of the artist's free hand while the other held the receiver. This form of graffiti encouraged by the use of the telephone often ended up in the wastepaper basket. In the summer of 1962, Dubuffet noticed that certain groups of these striped cells possessed an evocative power, and when isolated, cut out by scissors and set against a black background, they were unexpectedly suggestive of a bestiary that was both familiar and very different from any conventional form of representation.

Thus in July 1963 and with the help and skill of Noël Arnaud, a small booklet reproducing these telephone drawings was published under the simple title of L'Hourloupe, with a commentary by the artist similar to the "slang" books that Dubuffet produced from time to time starting with Ler dla Canpane in 1948. However, unlike the previous publications primarily founded on the principle of phonetic writing, the L'Hourloupe texts, even if they mention strange figures (Cerviteire, NautèreSantonaile...) or animals (JéniceMoucetic...), were chiefly based on what Dubuffet himself called "an absolute slang, namely of invented words whose meaning is problematic". He did not go so far as the book's name itself – incongruous but unforgettable – which was indeed a problem.

In his biography, Dubuffet rapidly explains that he "associated it's assonance" with the French for shouting "hurler", or hooting "hululer" and the title "Le Horla" of Maupassant's book inspired by the wanderings of the mind but he forgot to mention, for fear perhaps of being seen as a simple trick, the title of one of his own paintings "La Rue de L'Entourloupe" (entourloupe means trick in French) whose graphic style singularly links the first paintings of this new cycle – the longest by Dubuffet – to the spirit of the Paris-Circus works that precede it. As with the latter, the first L'Hourloupe paintings reproduce an urban décor where the striped red and blue figures are often inserted like votive images inside doorways or window frames. Each of Dubuffet's experiments, each invention is an occasion for him to attempt a greater radicalism. With Les riches fruits de l'erreur, painted on 12 March 1963, Dubuffet suddenly found what was to become the very spirit of L'Hourloupe: with no longer any notion of place, of architectural substrate, of a background set behind a figure or of any individualized figures. The paintings seem to be fragments within a continuum without beginning or end, arbitrarily cut into segments just as the camera image frames only a detail and leaves out the agitation of the surrounding world. However Dubuffet retains not the significant detail, but rather a profusion of elements, which for him has meaning. Starting with this painting, L'Hourloupe defined itself as a kind of organic phenomenon, a cellular agitation where the gaze perceives fugitive images in a vast puzzle of ephemeral combinations, suggesting presences, figure or people that fall apart as soon as the gaze fixes them, whilst others appear nearby, other equally fleeting associations from which disjecta membra are rebuilt from previous images, new figures, new forms, new presences.

Invited in 1965 to create two monumental works for the new Faculté des Lettres in Nanterre, Dubuffet named the models of his two projects Nunc Stans and Epokhé, as a kind of interpretative code not only for this project but for the entire L'Hourloupe cycle, insisting thus, with the use of Latin, on both the value of a present oblivious of the past and untroubled by the future and with the use of Greek (brought to his attention by Asger Jorn) of a suspension of judgement, a refusal of immutable meaning. Dubuffet favoured an immersion in the present, endowing it with the power of evidence and emotion, yet constantly submitted to the movements of his thoughts, not as something definitive, but rather with a freedom of spirit which owes much to both Schopenhauer and the spirit of zen philosophy (that Dubuffet studied with interest).

It is through this rejection of all certitude that the titles of his paintings should be understood: J'opterai pour l'erreur (I will choose the mistake), Compagnie fallacieuse (False Company), Versant de l'erreur (The other side of Error), Être et paraître (Being and Appearing)..., because, as Dubuffet explains in the film Autoportrait: "Art does not address the eye but the mind." It is no doubt within this notion of truly conceptual painting that the idea of abandoning the colourful fireworks of Paris-Circus gradually took shape, relying instead upon the fundamental contrast of red and blue – the colours which symbolize blood in the veins and the arteries that irrigate the human body – highlighted against neutral whites and blacks. Painted in oil, like the Paris-Circus works, Les riches fruits de l'erreur still shows in its transparency, its transitions, its layers and even the use of the empty, white cell, the traces of Dubuffet's pleasure in painting that he sought to abolish in the different phases of L'Hourloupe as the last sign of painting from the past. 

His exclusive use of vinyl from 1964 emphasized the arbitrary character of colour, the lack of any clues it could give to a reading of the paintings. "Now it is the unreal that enchants me wrote Dubuffet; I have an appetite for the un-true, the false life, the anti-world; my work is launched on the path of unrealism. I find that realism and unrealism are the two poles between which art is divided, much more than the ridiculous notions of the abstract and the figurative chased after by all the simplistic and uninformed minds of today and which are purely illusory."

Daniel Abadie

We enter into Dubuffet as if into a strange earth, upon which we once again abandon any preconceived ideas, any acquired references on notions which are derelict here, beauty, rules, knowledge. Jean Dubuffet does not use these axioms, he proposes others, but holds back from pronouncing the formulas which are left to be discovered by each one of us.

Daniel Marchesseau

Jean Dubuffet is like one of those discoveries which changes your life.

Jean Paulhan