Lot 1085
  • 1085

JEAN DUBUFFET | Promenade Agreste

11,000,000 - 18,000,000 HKD
13,320,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Jean Dubuffet
  • Promenade Agreste
  • acrylic on canvas
  • 195.6 by 100.3 cm; 77 by 39½ in.
initialled and dated 74; signed, titled and dated 74 on the reverse


Galerie Beyeler, Basel
James Goodman Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Belgium
Sotheby's, London, 24 March 1993, lot 314
Michael Cohen Collection, New York
Private Collection
Sotheby's, New York, 14 November 2013, lot 131
Private Collection
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou; Basel, Galerie Beyeler; New York, Pace Gallery, Jean Dubuffet: Paysages castillans, Sites tricolores, February - October 1975, cat. no. 42 (Paris) and 19 (Basel and New York)
Switzerland, Chur, Bündner Kunstmuseum, Dubuffet: Werkauswahl 1945-1975, March - April 1977, cat. no. 19
Switzerland, Zug, Kunsthaus Zug, Jean Dubuffet: Bilder, Zeichnungen und Skulpturen aus dreissig Jahren, January - March 1983
USA, New York, Weintraub Gallery, Jean Dubuffet: Paintings and Sculpture, April - May 1984
USA, New York, James Goodman Gallery, 1984
Switzerland, Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Jean Dubuffet: Retrospektive, October 1985 - January 1986, cat. no. 34
Germany, Berlin, Galerie Michael Haas, Jean Dubuffet: 1901-1985, September - November 1987, cat. no. 19 (illustrated in colour)
Canada, Montreal, Landau Beaux Arts, Qui rassemble la foule...la captive, October - November 1988
Switzerland, Basel, Art 21'90 Basel, The International Art Fair: Art of the 20th Century, June 1990, p. 465, cat. no. 2 (illustrated in colour)


Max Loreau ed., Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Fascicule XXVIII: Roman burlesque, Sites tricolores, Les Éditions de Minuit, Paris, 1979, p. 147, cat. no. 200

Catalogue Note

Hourloupe: A Finale
Jean Dubuffet

In my thinking, the works that belong to the L’Hourloupe cycle are linked one to the other, each of them an element destined to become part of the whole. The cycle itself is conceived as the figuration of a world other than our own or, if you prefer, parallel to ours, and it is this world which bears the name L’Hourloupe. —Jean Dubuffet

Executed in December 1974, Promenade Agreste is one of the last pieces from Jean Dubuffet’s largest and most enduring series: Hourloupe. A supreme archetype of the artist’s tremendously prolific corpus, the present work is a visually engulfing puzzle of biomorphic cellular forms, rendered in a restricted yet dazzling palette of blue, black, red and white. On one hand, the chromatic vivacity of the compressed composition, with nebulous shapes bound by the agitated delineation, emanates a raw psychotic vigour in keeping with the Art Brut movement commonly associated with Dubuffet; on the other hand, it reflects the artist’s adaptation of artistic strategies used by Picasso and Braque in their Analytical Cubist masterpieces which shed light on Dubuffet’s increasingly sculptural preoccupation in the last decade of his life. The painting’s extensive exhibition history indisputably testifies its significance not only as a culmination of the artist’s Hourloupian visual vocabulary but also an important work that encapsulates in one single picture plane the trajectory of Dubuffet’s multifaceted oeuvre. 

Hourloupe is an artistic form that Dubuffet pursued from 1962 to 1974. During this twelve year period, the artist produced some of the most visually captivating and richly imaginative paintings of his career. The style, teetering between figuration and abstraction, is inspired by a series of ballpoint pen doodles Dubuffet absent-mindedly made while speaking on the telephone. The artist considered these sources of his Hourloupe "sinuous graphics responding with immediacy to…uncontrolled impulses of his hand which traces them" (the artist cited on the Dubuffet Foundation website). Coinciding with the crux of the Art Brut movement which Dubuffet was a major proponent of, the artist felt that he had, through doodling, arrived at a mode of representation that draws from his subconscious as a means of accessing the most primitive nature unfettered by the physical world within him. It succinctly gave form to his fundamental creed of genuine art which is unschooled, untrammelled by conventions and driven by arbitrary instinct and irrational mood.

In Promenade Agreste, Dubuffet unleashed his Hourloupian eloquence in an explosion of vibrant clusters and crosshatchings. Abolishing the hierarchy between figure and background, the boisterous figure in the center appears to float on the interlocking cellar structures caught in the process of proliferation in a densely packed space. The resulting flattened composition is charged with a spontaneity and directness that is redolent of naïve children’s art. The mask-like visage of the figure rendered in globulous geometry finds its artistic parallel in the cubist compositions of Pablo Picasso, whose oeuvre included a substantial number of paintings appropriating the form and style of African tribal masks. Both artists shared a similar fascination with African aesthetics, and Dubuffet’s aspiration to express the primitive nature of man was undoubtedly sparked by his travels to Algeria between 1945 and 1947 during which he was captivated by the nomadic tribes he saw.

While Dubuffet’s compulsive webs of patterns harness their volumetric vitality from Cubism, the artist reinterpreted the geometric dialogue by further flattening and simplifying the compositional plane as well as eliminating the expressive function of colour. The resulting fractured terrain is a disarray of vivid visual facets transcribed from the artist’s psyche; their ambiguous references provoke the viewer’s reflection on the illusory nature of the world that one believes to be real. As the Hourloupe series progressed, Dubuffet sought to further challenge the distinction between the real and the imaginary by materialising his mental conjuring in monumental scale so that the viewer "would not be in front of the image but enter inside the image" (the artist cited in Marc Glimcher, Jean Dubuffet: Towards an Alternate Reality, New York, 1987, p. 211).

Between April and August of 1974, Dubuffet was noted to have made preparatory drawings in black felt-tip pen, which his assistants projected and enlarged onto dramatically scaled canvases. This technique, also used by Warhol for large-scale paintings, signalled a significant shift in the artist's modus operandi which place further emphasis and consideration on the scale of the work in relation to the viewing spectator. Dubuffet’s Hourloupe paintings soon developed into vast polystyrene sculptures which, when assembled in groups, create an enveloping surreal habitat as he did for the figures in his Coucou Bazar, a production of animated Hourloupian paintings and sculptures first performed in 1973.

Through his translation of works on paper and canvas into three-dimensional space, Dubuffet created a new visual order in which the experience of painting is no longer solely optical but bodily, as the viewing individual is being confronted by and integrated into the artist’s liminal wonderland between fantasy and reality. Executed at the apogee of this artistic transition, the present work's sinuous lines and vibrant colours retain a connection to the graphic phase of Hourloupe, whilst its compelling physical presence, in which scale plays an essential role, evokes the artist’s avocation towards the three-dimensional manifestation of his imaginary landscapes in our perceived reality. It propels the viewing individual to comprehend the present work "with a new refreshed eye, and learns to see the unaccustomed and amusing side of things…the grand, the moving and even the tragic aspects [of ordinary things]" (Exh. Cat., New York, The Solomon Guggenheim Museum, Jean Dubuffet: A Retrospective, 1973, p. 23). Hypnotically arresting, the present work unfolds Dubuffet’s life-long ambition to elevate the everyday experience to a state of frenzied hyper-reality.