Lot 19
  • 19

JEAN DUBUFFET | Épisode Champêtre

900,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
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  • Jean Dubuffet
  • Épisode Champêtre
  • signed with the artist’s initials and dated 74; signed, titled and dated 74 on the reverse
  • vinyl on canvas
  • 195 by 130 cm. 76 7/8 by 51 in.


The Pace Gallery, New York (acquired directly from the artist in 1975) 
Private Collection, Paris (acquired from the above in 1975)
The Pace Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above in 1977)
Christie’s, New York, 14 May 1999, Lot 614
Nahmad Collection (acquired from the above sale) 
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Paris, Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Jean Dubuffet: Paysages Castillans, Sites Tricolores, February - March 1975, n.p., no. 35, illustrated in colour
London, Robert Sandelson Gallery, Jean Dubuffet: Painting and Sculpture from 1960s and 1970s, October - November 2007
Seoul, Shinsegae Gallery; Busan, Shinsegae Gallery; and Gwangju, Shinsegae Gallery, Jean Dubuffet and the World of Hourloupe, October - November 2010, p. 43, illustrated in colour
Paris, Galerie Hopkins, Jean Dubuffet, October - November 2019 


Max Loreau, Catalogue des Travaux de Jean Dubuffet, fascicule XXVIII: Roman Burlesque, Sites tricolores, Paris 1979, p. 143, no. 193b, illustrated 


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the dark blues are slightly lighter in the original and the illustration fails to fully convey the brushstrokes in the red and blue passages. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional condition report.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Composed in 1974, Épisode Champêtre is an exemplary mature work from Jean Dubuffet’s paradigm-shifting L’Hourloupe series. One of the longest and most celebrated cycles of the French artist’s career, the Hourloupe paintings were first conceived in the summer of 1962 when, whilst speaking on the telephone, Dubuffet absent-mindedly produced a fluid drawing in red and blue ballpoint pen on paper with his free hand while the other held the receiver. This instantiated what was arguably the Art Brut pioneer’s most recognised and acclaimed visual dialect. While some early examples of the Hourloupe represent a logical extension of Dubuffet’s preceding Paris Circus series of 1961-62, others, including the present work, build upon Dubuffet’s longstanding interest in portraiture to create works which morph between figuration and abstraction. Just as the human figures in the Paris Circus are gradually enveloped by unstoppable bursts of colour, the biomorphic shapes of Épisode Champêtre revel in the sheer two-dimensionality of the picture plane as they simultaneously form the outlines of two individuals. Recalling the vibrant visual syntax of Dubuffet’s predecessor Fernand Leger with its ebullient forms and richly saturated palette, Épisode Champêtre presents a joyful expression of unrestricted impulses and liberated thought.   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.