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PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTOR

Jean Dubuffet
QUATRE NOTABLES
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Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
380,000450,000
LOT SOLD. 466,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
23

PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTOR

Jean Dubuffet
QUATRE NOTABLES
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Artist's Resale Right
Purchase of lots marked with this symbol will be subject to the payment of the artist's resale right.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
380,000450,000
LOT SOLD. 466,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Jean Dubuffet
1901 - 1985
QUATRE NOTABLES
signed and dated 29 VI 44
ink and grattage on paper
24 by 31.6 cm. 9 3/8 by 12 3/8 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

André Jaoul, Neuilly-sur-Seine
Michel Jaoul, Neuilly-sur-Seine (by descent from the above)
Christie's, New York, 15 November 2016, Lot 64a
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

Paris, Galerie René Drouin, Exposition de Tableaux et Dessins de Jean Dubuffet, October - November 1944, n.p., no. 76 (text)

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

Literature

Daniel Cordier, Jean Dubuffet, Paris and New York, 1960, n.p., no. 13, illustrated

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

Catalogue Note

Displayed at the legendary exhibition, Tableaux et dessins de Jean Dubuffet, at Galerie René Drouin on the Place Vendôme in October 1944 and extensively exhibited since, Quatre Notables forms part of the commercial blooming of Jean Dubuffet’s revolutionary career. Completed on 29th of June 1944 the same year that, having been greatly moved by Jean Fautrier’s Otages, Dubuffet began to use his distinctive thick mixture of tar, gravel and sand Quatre Notables depicts ‘four noblemen’ whose roughly-textured bodies are integrated with their environs. A satire of the classical bas-relief, the present work was rendered in the Surrealism-derived grattage technique, in which marks are made by scraping a surface pre-prepared with a coat of oil paint or ink. In viewing the present work, the viewer has a tangible sense of an artist, who, at the age of forty-three, was enjoying a self-assured and highly creative period following his self-proclaimed dedication to artistic practice two years earlier. Profiting from the community of an unprecedentedly militant and subversive Paris circle of gallerists, writers, poets, artists and critics including gallerist René Drouin, Georges Limbour, Max Jacob, Jean Paulhan and Pierre Seghers, Dubuffet expressed in Quatre Notables the hallmarks of his Art Brut project. This wonderful work on paper broke free from traditional artistic tropes in favour of a staggeringly original and liberated form of representation.

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.).

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London