Alongside other artists active in Paris in the decade following the end of the Second World War, in particular Wols and Jean Fautrier, Dubuffet championed the emerging movements of Art Brut and Art Autre, embracing a style which utilised sometimes rudimentary materials and rough textures far removed from the smooth finish of traditional painting. In his quest to forge an entirely innovative artistic language, one that was unconnected to conventional Western notions of beauty, Dubuffet was especially drawn to so called ‘primitive’ art as well as that produced by mental patients. The artist believed that these forms of creative effort were closer to the truth of the subliminal unconscious, resulting in a more realistic artistic language devoid of unnecessary aesthetic ornamentation. The importance of this concept as a driving force behind his stylistic methods was outlined by Dubuffet in a speech in 1951: “Western man believes that he can use thought to achieve perfect insight into things… But ‘primitive man’ tends to see reason and logic as an affliction… For this reason he values and admires the mental conditions that we define as delirium. "I must confess that I am intensely interested in delirium and I am convinced that art is very closely linked with it" (the artist, cited in Exhibition Catalogue, Bilbao, Guggenheim, Jean Dubuffet, Trace of an Adventure, 2003-04, p. 33). In its simplified yet commanding composition, Coq à l'oeil reflects the inspiration of earlier and ‘outsider’ art forms whilst celebrating and elevating an ordinary personage through means of portraiture, a genre redolent with historical associations. Ultimately Coq à l'oeil is a truly superb painting that magnificently epitomises the key creative ideals and concerns of one of the most influential artists of the Twentieth Century.
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