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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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Jean Dubuffet
1901 - 1985
EFFIGIE INCERTAINE XXVI
signed with the artist's initials, dated 75 and dedicated à Ennio Navire J.D. 78; titled and inscribed on the reverse
vinyl paint on paper mounted on canvas
64.5 by 46 cm. 25 1/2 by 18 1/8 in.
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Provenance

Ennio Navire, Italy (a gift from the artist in 1978)
Thence by descent to the present owner

Exhibited

Max Loreau, Ed., Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Fascicule XXX: Parachiffres, mondanités, lieux abrégés, Paris 1980, illustrated in colour (cover); p. 51, no. 109, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Executed in March, 1975, Effigie incertaine XXVI brilliantly exhibits Jean Dubuffet’s visceral aesthetic language in which figure and landscape become one through the artist’s innovative notion of the ‘landscaped body’. Prominently illustrated on the cover of fascicule XXX of the artist’s catalogue raisonné, Effigie incertaine XXVI conveys bold undulating lines and intense primary colours of saturated red and yellow, which in turn signify flattened yet highly expressive humanoid forms. Completed during the exceptionally productive last decade of the artist’s life, the present work follows Dubuffet’s largest series, the l’Hourloupe cycle, which occupied the artist from 1962 to 1974. Executed one year later, Effigie incertaine XXVI reveals the distinctive amoeba-like forms that defined the earlier series, yet the composition poignantly illustrates a stripping of Dubuffet’s visual language to its most rudimentary. Black vinyl paint thickly outlines organic shapes that interlace and interlock in chaotic pieces of a puzzle, distinguishing from one another through vivid colour and internal hatching. Thus Dubuffet’s fascination with the human body, as well as a dialogue between the body and its surroundings, becomes central to the present work, where the artist’s ingenious figuration radically breaks with artistic tradition in its profound association with the landscape genre. Dubuffet himself proclaimed, “I think portraits and landscapes should resemble each other because they are more or less the same thing. I want portraits in which description makes use of the same mechanisms as those used in a landscape—here wrinkles, there ravines or paths; here a nose, there a tree; here a mouth and there a house” (Jean Dubuffet cited in: Exh. Cat., Basel,  Fondation Beyeler, Jean Dubuffet: Metamorphoses of Landscape, 2016, p. 40).

Effigie incertaine XXVI illuminates Dubuffet’s radical reduction of form and colour, and here the metamorphic figure landscape is compressed, distorted and constricted. The raw, unbridled energy of the present composition is directly in keeping with ‘Art Brut’, which embodied an artistic language expressive of emotion and untrammelled by convention. The title of the work translates in English to ‘uncertain effigy’ and its semantics refers to the artist’s own recalcitrant nature and ground-breaking process of image-making. The term ‘effigy’ is defined as a rough model of a person that is made in order to be damaged or destroyed as a protest, thus the very word ‘effigy’ becomes a metaphor for the artist’s own destruction of aesthetic norms. In a transformative gesture of rebellion, Dubuffet rejected conventional notions of beauty and the sublime in favour of what he believed to be more humanistic and authentic: “I feel that beauty is merely an accidental and very specious convention. I feel that the things which are reputed to be ugly are so reputed without reason, and are no less beautiful than the things reputed to be beautiful” (Jean Dubuffet cited in: Exh. Cat., Paris, Galerie Boulakia, Jean Dubuffet, 2007, p. 7). Dubuffet’s dialectic between abstraction and figuration, the beautiful and the ugly, is echoed by his contemporaries in both Europe and America such as Alberto Giacometti, Adolph Gottlieb and Jackson Pollock. Indeed, Dubuffet’s anti-aesthetic, anti-cultural position manifested one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and Effigie incertaine XXVI offers a striking example of such revolutionary deviance and artistic invention.  

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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London