Lot 102
  • 102

JEAN DUBUFFET | Charles-Albert Cingria

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
261,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Jean Dubuffet
  • Charles-Albert Cingria
  • signed, titled and dated 46
  • charcoal on paper


Jean Paulhan, Paris
Galerie Krugier, Geneva
Albert Loeb and Krugier Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Geneva, Galerie Krugier, Jean Paulhan et ses environs, May 1967, n.p., no. 70, illustrated
Basel, Kunstmuseum, Jean Dubuffet: Zeichnungen, Aquarelle, Gouachen, Collagen, June - August 1970, n.p., no. 16 (text)


Max Loreau, Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Fascicule III: Plus Beaux qu'ils Croient (Portraits), Paris 1966, p. 50, no. 67, illustrated
Anon., 'Jean Dubuffet', Quinzaine Littéraire, February 1968, n.p., illustrated
Max Loreau, Jean Dubuffet: Délits, Déportements, Lieux De Haut Jeu, Paris 1971, p. 48, illustrated
Andreas Franzke, Jean Dubuffet: Zeichnungen, Munich 1980, p. 54, illustrated
Exh. Cat., Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Dubuffet, March - June 1993, p. 17, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Candid and tender, primitive and yet enormously progressive, Charles-Albert Cingria forms an essential part of a period of activity marking the beginning of Jean Dubuffet’s recognition and success as an artist. Depicting Dubuffet’s close friend, the Swiss writer, poet and musician Charles Albert Cingria, the present work is one of a series of charcoal portraits composed by Dubuffet from 1944 of gallerists, artists and activists. Dubuffet was first exhibited at the René Drouin Gallery – a space that had heroically nurtured and protected the avant-garde during the Nazi Occupation of France – and Dubuffet’s work at this exhibition was responsible for a shift in his intersubjective gestalt from estranged outsider to innovative genius. Dubuffet was part of a collective movement who brought about a veritable paradigmatic shift in aesthetics: La Compagnie de l’Art Brut. From the putatively golden ratios of Renaissance painting (which via the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche inspired the very supremacist ideology that was strangling France) to the more tacit and subversive prescriptions of German Expressionism, Impressionism, Cubism and Russian Constructivism, l’Art Brut eschewed all prescriptive theories of what beauty ought to be. The more we look at Charles-Albert Cingria, the more its disorienting power rises over us in lyrical crescendo. There is a wild, untamed and authentic beauty to it; in the economy and eloquence of the characterisation, in the spectral eyes that look through us to some unknown horizon. Like Eugène Delacroix, Henri Matisse and Eugène Fromentin before him, Dubuffet travelled to North Africa in his youth to escape the cloying pretension of Paris and seek artistic inspiration. Between 1945 and 1947, Dubuffet took three separate trips to Algeria, which was at the time a French Colony. He surely could never have anticipated the seismic impact these trips were to have on his thought and style. In the crisp and cloudless cobalt skies, the cleansing coarseness of the desert sands, Dubuffet became a man éveillé: immeasurably more conscious and awake to the world. Just as his oil paint – hitherto thickened with sand, tar and straw – now attempted to encompass in dense impasto the raw physicality of the Algerian landscape, Charles-Albert Cingria represents in unprecedentedly pure and tactile graphite a strange and mystical figure. Seen in the afterglow of Dubuffet’s enlightening travels, the shading on Cingria’s face and body evokes dark, shifting sands; his shoulders, arms and facial creases the uncompromising perfection of sand dunes in the North African desert.

It is almost impossible to overstate Dubuffet’s impact on the art world. His desacralisation of the artwork, artist and artistic process foreshadowed by several years the emergence of the CoBrA art group, which united in 1948. Both l’Art Brut and CoBrA reintroduced into painting an innocence: a mythical, folkloric and generously playful aspect that had been stifled by decades of permutations in Western theoretical austerity. While Dubuffet’s aesthetic shared Surrealism’s rejection of civility in art (it is no coincidence that André Breton was the cofounder of La Compagnie de l’Art Brut in 1948), Surrealism’s prescriptive fixation on the representation of the unconscious was replaced by an atheoretical channelling by l’Art Brut of the interplay between different parts of the mind. The process, not the product, was evaluated above all, and for Dubuffet, process was at its most beautiful, because it’s most raw, when carried out by persons unjustifiably exiled from the institutions of the bourgeois art world. Thus it was that outsider art – art carried out by children, prisoners, psychiatric patients, and other ostracised groups – came to public and critical attention, and astonishing artworks that would otherwise have never been created, or fallen quickly into oblivion, were exhibited and remembered. In this capacity, we can see Dubuffet’s graphite portraits as his attempt to channel the euphoria of his experience of landscape into the human figure. Like an African mirage or ancient alchemy, the face is both clear and indistinct; like desert winds or shifting sands, the shading is both amorphous and undeniable.