Jean Dubuffet was born in Le Havre on 31 July 1901 to a family of wine merchants. In 1918, Dubuffet moved to Paris to study painting at the Académie Julian, where he became close friends with Juan Gris, André Masson and Fernand Léger. After 6 months, Dubuffet grew disillusioned with academic training and left the Académie. Dubuffet continued to paint independently until 1924 before stopping altogether to run his own wine business. Although he briefly took up painting again in the 1930s, it wasn’t until 1942 that he fully committed to life as an artist.
Establishing a studio on the rue Lhomond in Paris, Dubuffet worked at great speed and freedom exploring a wide variety of media and techniques, including the creation of his ‘hautes pâtes’, tactile paintings made from a thick impasto consisting of a mixture of paint with crude materials. In 1944, Dubuffet had his first exhibition at the Galerie René Drouin. In 1947, Dubuffet has his first New York solo show with Pierre Matisse. Dubuffet’s interest resided in the ‘anti-cultural’, art unaffected by tradition or style, a type of art he coined ‘Art Brut’. Over the course of his life, Dubuffet assembled an Art Brut collection of over 5,000 works by 133 different artists, which he donated to the city of Lausanne in 1971.
Dubuffet lived in Paris until 1954, where alongside the hautes pâtes he developed the pâtes battues, a painting process where he would apply thick layers of white paste over painted dark backgrounds. Between 1954 and 1961 Dubuffet was based in Durtol, Auvergne, and then Vence on the Côte d’Azur, before returning to Paris. During this period, Dubuffet explored sculpture and adapted a traditional Tyrolean plasterers technique for his Texturologies. In 1962, Dubuffet inadvertently inaugurated his L’Hourloupe series whilst doodling during a phone call, a series that would preoccupy the artist for over twelve years and incorporate painting, drawing, sculptures, architectural environments and theatrical performance. In 1973, the Fondation Jean Dubuffet was established. Over the final decade of his life, Dubuffet continued to produce work, including his series of monumental Théatres de mémoires. Dubuffet died in Paris on 12 May 1985.
Dubuffet’s work can be found in numerous major public collections, including: Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Art Institute of Chicago; The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; Museu Colecção Berardo, Lisbon; Collection de l’art brut, Lausanne; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Tate Collection, London.
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