In the Hourloupe series, by reducing his palette to red, white and blue against a black background, Dubuffet simultaneously pays homage to his motherland, and encapsulates the career-defining quality of his oeuvre: an ineffable beauty achieved through bewilderingly simple medium and form. With a sense of perpetual evolution and mutual communication, multiple visual motifs combine in Épisode Champêtre to evoke the wanderings of the unconscious mind and the triumph of chaos over order. As the artist himself proclaimed, “Have we lost our joy in celebrating the arbitrary and the fantastic? Are we interested only in self-improvement? Would it not be legitimate, for once at least… to forget truth, to succumb to the vagaries of errors and pitfalls and to take pleasure in cultivating our function as drunken dancers?” (Jean Dubuffet cited in: Exh. Cat., Salzburg, Museum der Moderne, (and travelling), Jean Dubuffet, 2003, p. 14).
The Hourloupe is widely lauded as the most enduring series within Dubuffet’s oeuvre. Channelling the precepts of Art Brut, which sought to elevate the strange, the outcast, and the outsider over academic methods and art world norms, Épisode Champêtre perfectly encapsulates the artist's unique and enthralling pictorial syntax. Dubuffet’s neologism ‘hourloupe’ recalls both the French verbs ‘hurler’ and ‘hululer’ – meaning ‘to roar’ and ‘to hoot’ respectively – as well as the word ‘loup’, the French noun for ‘wolf’. It was, however, precisely the sound of the word that appealed most emphatically to the artist, who explained: “this ‘Hourloupe’ term is a noun invented on account of its phonetics. In French, it evokes a character who’s at once somewhat enchanting and grotesque; a kind of tragic, growling, lumbering figure” (Jean Dubuffet cited in: Daniel Abadie, ‘La création du monde’ in: Exh. Cat., Paris, Centre Pompidou, Jean Dubuffet, 2001, p. 244). Pulsating with energy and mesmerising to behold, Épisode Champêtre exemplifies the vital, jubilant and spontaneous spirit of Dubuffet’s mature style.
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