Paris, Cercle Volney, Exposition de Peintures, dessins et divers travaux exécutés de 1942 à 1954 par Jean Dubuffet, March - April 1954
Paris, Galerie Berggruen, Retrospective des dessins de Jean Dubuffet, October - November 1960
Madrid, Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundación La Caixa, Jean Dubuffet: Del paisaje fisico al paisaje mental, March - April 1992, p. 52, no. 41, illustrated in colour
Brussels, Centre Culturel Le Botanique, Jean Dubuffet: Du trait à la matière, November 1996 - February 1997, p. 61, illustrated in colour
Taipei, National Museum of History, Rétrospective Jean Dubuffet 1919 - 1985, September - December 1998, p. 74, no. 20, illustrated in colour
Saarbrücken, Saarland Museum Saarbrücken, Jean Dubuffet: Figuren und Köpfe. Auf der Suche nach einer Gegenkultur, September - November 1999, p. 161, no. 86, illustrated in colour
Le Havre, Musée Malraux, Le Théâtre de Jean Dubuffet, May - September 2001, p. 46, illustrated in colour
Salzburg, Museum der Moderne; Bilbao, Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, Jean Dubuffet: Trace of an Adventure, July 2003 - April 2004, p. 50 (text); and pp. 52-53, illustrated in colour
Paris, Christie's, Tant pis, j'y vais, j'aime ça. Jean Dubuffet: De Paris Circus à L'Hourloupe, September 2014, p. 57, illustrated in colour
Max Loreau, Catalogue des Travaux de Jean Dubuffet, fasc. I: Marionnettes de la ville et de la campagne, Lausanne 1966 and Paris 1993, p. 159 (1966) and p. 187 (1993), no. 295, illustrated
Max Loreau, Jean Dubuffet: délits, déportements, lieux de haut jeu, Lausanne 1971, p. 24, illustrated
Bernard Gheerbrant, 'Courtes histoires de bonhommes', Opus International, No. 93, Spring 1984, p. 19, illustrated
Wry and irreverent, Quatre Notables mocks the putative noblemen it depicts, in much the same way as his work Haut Négoce – made just three months prior to the present work – ridiculed a set of haughty suited men participating in a negotiation. Directing a comical, critical eye over the way in which contemporary political decisions are made by people who are at heart base and absurd, Dubuffet’s staunch rejection of accepted aesthetic standards in Quatre Notables and Haut Négoce has both a personal and historical cause. Having repeatedly attempted to fashion a successful career as an artist, Dubuffet had, by 1942, “lost all interest in the art shown in galleries and museums”, and instead “loved the paintings done by children”, with his “only desire…to do the same for [his] own pleasure” (Jean Dubuffet cited in: Valérie de Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Jean Dubuffet: Works, Writings and Interviews, Barcelona 2006, p. 11). With an oft-overlooked, exceptionally diligent work ethic, Dubuffet formulated his own version of art history by focusing on supposedly ‘bad paintings’ and commenting of his own practice that “the most important thing is to be against things” (Ibid., p. 11). The origins of Dubuffet’s project, however, are also indissociable from its wider historical context. The supremacist prescriptivism of the Nazi ideology that imposed itself on Paris embodied, for Dubuffet, just an extreme form of the censorious injunctions upheld by the traditional art world: both delineated a charmed circle of accepted forms and excluded the rest as ‘degenerate’. In a bold act of defiance, Dubuffet concerned himself with depictions of ordinary people; eschewing any vestige of the kind of idealisation that the Nazis took to monstrous extremes.
Without doubt among the most important French artists of the Twentieth Century, Dubuffet is a perfect counterexample to the trope of the individualistic male artist – as epitomised by Pablo Picasso. Dubuffet’s choice of subject-matter, from ordinary citizens in Métro (1943), glimpses of redemptive jubilance in Nazi-occupied Paris in Vue de Paris – La vie de Plaisir (1944), as well as rural practices in Grande traite solitaire (1943), defeats this myth. In effect, Dubuffet reveals in Quatre Notables the very same love of the ordinary and the democratic as that expressed by his friend Jean Paulhan in the Nouvelle Revue Française: “man’s worth lies in what he has that is natural, immediate and naive, rather than in what he acquires. A great scholar has merit: but an ordinary man in and of himself is more valuable and even more extraordinary than a great scholar” (Jean Paulhan, ‘La démocratie fait appel au premier venu’, Nouvelle Revue Française, 1 March 1939, n.p.).
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