The four red-cheeked and happy figures that inhabit Pommettes Rouges appear as a jovial band of brothers at one within the flat perspectiveless expanse of raw earth that contains them. Compounding Dubuffet’s style of execution, the smiling countenances and bright blue eyes of these youthful individuals conjure an idyllic past, before the arrival of a mechanised industrial age and the onset of war. This painting is bittersweet: imbued with nostalgia, it is replete with reminiscence for a bygone era and a simpler time. Although punctuated by apple-like bursts of red on the figures’ cheeks, the predominant monochromatic palette of this painting undoubtedly conjures a winter scene. The speckling of white, black and pale earthy pigments set the seasonal tone of this painting and herein call to mind Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s canonical genre scene Hunters in the Snow (1565). Aligned with Breughel’s painting, which portrays peasant-life during the winter months, Dubuffet’s scene of figures in the snow is similarly provincial, revelling in the simplicity of the countryside in which humanity and nature share harmonic equilibrium. Indeed, as redolent in the organic nature of Dubuffet’s use and application of paint, the present work teems with the artist’s enthusiasm for the primal substance of the earth: the soil.
Dubuffet’s relocation away from Paris was spurred by a desire to focus on the most unpretentious and unassuming subject matter for his paintings; an impetus that celebrated the quotidian and somewhat mundane aspects of rural life. Conceived as ‘forgotten landscapes’ or a view of the natural world that had been ignored or disparaged, Dubuffet’s work between 1955 and 1959 embodies a sequence of distinct, though interconnected and overlapping, series focussed on a distinctly unheroic and unmagisterial depiction of ‘the land’. Using various strategies and materials Dubuffet created abstract collage works that incorporated organic plant matter (Elements Botaniques), compositions that utilised synthetic materials such as metal foil (Matériologies), and paintings of entirely flat and nebulous pictorial detail (Texturologies). Familiar to all of these works was Dubuffet’s disavowal of the grand landscape genre, instead choosing to focus on the matter beneath his feet. Together, these works have been collectively defined as a ‘celebration of the soil’ and portray all-consuming Jackson Pollock-esque patches of ground as though viewed from above. Having distanced himself from the urban metropolis, Dubuffet focused his energies on this simple embrace of nature and for him the soil was emblematic of the most primal and pure forms of earthly being. As the artist wrote in 1959: “A roadway free of any unevenness or peculiarity, a dirty floor, a bare and dusty terrain, that no one would ever dream of looking – at least deliberately – (and much less in painting) – are reaches of intoxication and jubilation for me” (Jean Dubuffet cited in: Mildred Glimcher and Jean Dubuffet, Jean Dubuffet: Towards an Alternate Reality, New York 1987, p. 167). Beyond this however, soil provided Dubuffet with an aesthetic model that dissipated traditional divisions between form and formlessness, object and space.
Of the works created in 1958, Pommettes Rouges stands out for its strong figurative composition. Painted on 1st April 1958 amidst Dubuffet’s focus on all-out abstraction, Pommettes Rouges appears in the artist’s catalogue raisonné sandwiched between major iterations of the Texturologies. Nonetheless, the flattened perspective, almost monochromatic palette, and delicate layering-up of paint, is entirely in keeping with the abstract planar compositions of this boundless and pictorially inchoate series. Akin to the Texturologies this painting teems with matter and sparkles with natural verve; its ground could just as easily represent an infinite galaxy or nebula as a snow covered field in rural France. Incised and embedded into this matter and situated under a shallow skyline, the poignant reddened-cheeked individuals thus pin-point the very heart of Dubuffet’s truly radical, ingenious, and lifelong interrogation of the relationship between figure and ground.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale