47
47
Jean Dubuffet
BOUCHE EN CROISSANT (OU RIEUSE À BOUCHE EN CROISSANT DE LUNE)
Estimate
1,200,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 3,075,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
47
Jean Dubuffet
BOUCHE EN CROISSANT (OU RIEUSE À BOUCHE EN CROISSANT DE LUNE)
Estimate
1,200,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 3,075,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Jean Dubuffet
1901 - 1985
BOUCHE EN CROISSANT (OU RIEUSE À BOUCHE EN CROISSANT DE LUNE)
signed and dated 1946 on the reverse
oil on canvas
25 3/8 by 21 3/8 in. 64.5 by 54.3 cm.
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Provenance

Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
Lillian Lichter, Westchester, New York
Anthony Slayter-Ralph (acquired from the above)
Galerie Daniel Varenne, Geneva (acquired from the above)
Private Collection, Andorra
Stephen Hahn, New York and Santa Barbara
Thence by descent to the present owner

Exhibited

New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Jean Dubuffet: Paintings, January - February 1947, n.p., no. 17 (as Drôlesse
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Paintings by Jean Dubuffet: 1943-1949, January - February 1950, no. 14 
Paris, Cercle Volney, Exposition de peintures, dessins et divers travaux exécutés de 1942 à 1954 par Jean Dubuffet, March - April 1954, no. 28 (as Drôlesse)
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, The Early Years 1943 to 1959: An Exhibition of Paintings by Jean Dubuffet, May - June 1978, no. 7, illustrated

Literature

Lorenza Trucchi, L'occhio di Dubuffet, Rome, 1965, n.p., illustrated in color
Lorenza Trucchi, Jean Dubuffet, Rome, 1965, p. 109, no. 76, illustrated in color (as Drôlesse)
Max Loreau, ed., Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Fascicule II: Mirobolus, Macadam et Cie, Paris, 1966, p. 98, no. 148, illustrated
Noel Frackman, "Review: Jean Dubuffet," Arts Magazine, Volume 53, No. 1, September 1978, p. 26 (text)
Exh. Cat., Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Dubuffet, 2001, p. 365, illustrated (in installation at Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, 1947)
Marianne Jakobi, Jean Dubuffet et la fabrique du titre, Paris, 2006, p. 7, illustrated (in installation at Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, 1947)

Catalogue Note

Executed in June 1946, two years after Dubuffet’s inaugural solo exhibition in Paris, Bouche en Croissant is a zealous early portrait from the highly regarded Miroboulus, Macadam et Cie series that marked the opening chapter of Dubuffet’s illustrious career. Bouche en Croissant embodies Dubuffet’s 'anti-art' ideology, employing his innovative artistic language and technically inventive command over his medium that defied traditional artistic practice. The naïvely rendered figure’s jovial crescent shaped smile, anatomically disproportionate head and intertwined hands epitomize the genesis of the artist’s signature graphic vernacular. Dubuffet’s preoccupation with quotidian life in Paris, and his commitment to capturing the uplifting resolve of the human spirit in the aftermath of war, is perhaps nowhere more eloquently expressed than in the present work. For Dubuffet, “Man’s need for art is absolutely primordial, as strong as, perhaps stronger than, our need for bread. Without bread, we die of hunger, but without art we die of boredom.” (Jean Dubuffet, Prospectus aux amateurs de tout genre, Paris, 1946, p. 36) The present example solidified Dubuffet’s place as the great ‘matiériologue’ of the Twentieth Century. Boasting an exceptional provenance, Bouche en Croissant remained for decades in the collection of Stephen Hahn, who amassed one of the most celebrated collections of Dubuffet’s work.

Bearing a richly textured surface defined by a heavily impastoed and variegated paint application, Bouche en Croissant is exemplary of Dubuffet’s most revolutionary interventions into the traditional application of oil paint.  In 1945, after attending a show of Jean Fautrier’s work in Paris, Dubuffet resolved to transform his personal style. Deeply moved by the purity and directness of Fautier’s thick, textural abstract works, Dubuffet was inspired to create works emulating this quality of sincerity of expression. Instigated to experiment with the materiality of his medium, Dubuffet began mixing pastes formed by various conglomerates of asphalt, lead, and mud fortified with cement, plaster, varnish, and other liquid glues.  Dubuffet believed that conventional techniques inspired conventional imagery whereas unaccustomed non-art instruments, supports and media stimulate the mind to unprecedented adventures. Unique to this period of Dubuffet’s work, the crescent shaped smile and fashionable belt cinching Bouche en Croissant’s petite waist are brutishly carved into the heterogeneous past of oil paint, pebbles, and sand using a tool such as a spoon, knife, or even Dubuffet’s own finger. Through this handling of materials Dubuffet creates an immediacy and directness between the figure and viewer, bringing to life his belief that, “Art should always make us laugh and frighten us a little, but never bore us.” (Jean Dubuffet, Prospectus aux amateurs de tout genre, Paris, 1946, p. 43) Here, Dubuffet probes the modern human condition through the rawest of emotion, depicting a humble, optimistic representation of solitude beneath the clouds of war. The thickly worked surface oscillates between the surreal exuberance of the figure’s expression and the somber background, which possesses a textural tactility evocative of the scratched and eroding city walls of the urban landscape that fascinated the artist.  In this sense, Bouche en Croissant embodies a critical transition in the artist’s career following the brightly coloured Marionnettes of 1943 and 1944, while directly prefacing the darker earth tones of his coarsely worked Hautes Pâtes of 1946.

Operating under the condition that gesture defines identity, the present work reveals Dubuffet’s method of categorical oversimplification, closely intertwined with the larger goal of depersonalizing the individuality of his muse to focus instead on common features shared by all men – as found in the overt, trivial details that relate one person to another. Emblematic of the most shocking and exuberant early portraits, the present work is defined by its crude figuration and anatomical impracticality.  Dubuffet fits the body tightly within the frame of the composition, giving the figure an appearance of being compressed and wedged into the picture plane.  The juxtaposition against the dark background allows the crudely drawn figure, lacking geometric perspective, to stand out allowing the texture of the figure to become as important as the outline itself. Dubuffet abandons traditions of three-dimensional perspective, volumetric illusion, and prescribed color relationships for a more elementary, direct presentation of two-dimensional space.  His crudely drawn head and body reflect a childlike sense of wonder and naïveté that characterized the artist’s best work. The Museum of Modern Art curator Peter Selz noted: “These figures of 1945 to 1946 are shocking only if approached with preconceived notions of classical ‘beauty.’ Ugliness and beauty do not exist for Dubuffet as he becomes fascinated with the relation of nature (his material) to man (the emerging image).” (Peter Selz, “Jean Dubuffet: The Earlier Work,” in Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Jean Dubuffet, 1962, p. 30) 

Bouche en Croissant holds a decisive place of authority within the influential early series of Mirobolus, Macadam et Cie paintings.  Forty-eight paintings from the series were first exhibited in May 1946 at Dubuffet’s second major exhibition at the Galerie René Drouin, where they stirred enormous controversy for their brutish compositions and crude application of materials; yet managed to sell out within days. Incensed critics like René Huyghe pejoratively compared the paintings to Alfred Jarry and his riotously shocking 1896 play Ubu Roi, unquestionably drawing parallels between their wildly Dadaist sensibilities. One year later in 1947, Bouche en Croissant was notably exhibited in Dubuffet’s United States debut at the Pierre Matisse Gallery. During this debut, Bouche en Croissant was prominently displayed between Ménage en Gris, Outremer et Carmin, which is the first illustrated work in Max Loreau’s volume of the series, and Façades d'immeubles now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The provocative originality of Dubuffet’s Bouche en Croissant is embodied by his conviction that identity is only fully revealed at the limits of definition: “In order for a portrait to work for me, I need it to be hardly a portrait.  At the limit where it is no longer a portrait.  It’s there that it functions with its greatest force." (Exh. Cat., Washington, DC, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Jean Dubuffet 1943-1963, 1993, p. 29)  Dubuffet’s preoccupation with materiality is tangible in the intensely pebbled surface of Bouche en Croissant, creating a compellingly expressive figure that continues to challenge artistic boundaries seven decades after its creation.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York