Jean Dubuffet

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Jean Dubuffet, 1960, Venice; photographed by Paolo Monti
Jean Dubuffet, 1960

Jean Dubuffet (July 31, 1901 – May 12, 1985) was one of the French painters and sculptors of the second half of the 20th century. Dubuffet coined the term Art Brut for the art produced by non-professionals working outside aesthetic norms, such as art by children, mental patients, prisoners. The material in Art Brut is essential. Dubuffet's art is representational, in which he strives for the general and the popular meaning.

Quotes of Jean Dubuffet[edit]

chronologically arranged, after date of Jean Dubuffet's quotes
Dubuffet, 1974: 'Jardin d'émail', detail of accessible sculpture in Kröller Möller Museum - sculpture-park, The Netherlands.
Dubuffet, 1974: 'Jardin d'émail', surface of accessible sculpture in Kröller Möller Museum - sculpture-park, The Netherlands.


  • People Are Much More Beautiful Than They Think: Long Live Their True Face.
  • Portrait likenesses cooked and preserved in memory, likenesses burst in the memory of Mr. Jean Dubuffet, painter.
    • Two quotes, Jean Dubuffet placed on the poster announcing his painting-show Les gens sont plus beaux qu'ils croient, in Galerie René Drouin, Paris (October 7–31, 1947)
  • ..the sort of white crepe dough with which the person is thickly buttered [in the 'Haute Pâtes' series, Dubuffet made in 1946] was, by its proximity to the tar, dyed the color of burnt bread like a used Meerschaum pipe.
    • Quote of Jean Dubuffet, in Indications descriptives, in Michel Tapie, Mirobolus, Macadam & Cie. (Paris, 1946). Dubuffet, More Modest, (1946) trans. Joachim Neugroschel in Tracks: A Journal of Artist's Writings 1:2 (Spring 1975), p 26-29
  • The eye perceives what is hard and what is soft, what is porous and what is impervious, what is warm to the touch and what is cold.
    • Quote of Jean Dubuffet, from 'L'auteur répond à quelques objections', (1946); as cited in Prospectus aux amateurs de tout genre, Jean Dubuffet; Paris: Gallimard, 1946, p. 115
  • [Dubuffet marvels at the desert as a chaotic palimpsest, filled with marks and signs] an immense notebook of disorganization, a notebook of improvisation.. elementary school blackboard full of scribbles..
  • Man Writes on Sand.
    • Quote from Prospectus aux amateurs de tout genre, Jean Dubuffet; Paris: Gallimard, 1946; translated in: Mildred Glimcher, ed., Jean Dubuffet: Towards an Alternative Reality; New York: Abbeville Press 1987; as cited in 'Dubuffet, Lévi-Strauss, and the Idea of Art Brut', Kent Minturn, from RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 46, Polemical Objects (Autumn, 2004), p. 250
    • Dubuffet is describing the (contemporary) for him of the footprints of the Bedouins.
  • Every piece of information about these statues is totally useless.. .What . import is it to us if their author was a bureaucrat or a cowherd, an old man or a young person? It is very unfounded to pay attention to these meager ircumstances. There is no difference between an old and young man. Not the least in any domain. Or if he was from Burgundy or Auvergne it's the same. And if he is alive or dead for who knows how long it is the same to us. Between a contemporary and someone from the last century, or a companion of Clovis or the big prehistoric reptiles? No difference whatsoever. We are completely wrong to take interest in these details.
    • Quote in Dubuffet's 1947 Entry on an anonymous sculptor, associated with the Swiss collector O.J. Müller; from: Jean Dubuffet, Les Barbus Müller et Autres Pièces de la Statuaire Provinciale(1947), in Prospectus I, pp. 498-49 (transl. Kent Minturn)
    • remark about the publication of biographically based texts on individual art brut artists; according to Dubuffet: veritable history of art without 'names,' 'dates,' or 'histories'.
  • Our point of view on this question of the function of art is the same in all cases: there's no more an art of the insane than there is an art of dyspeptic people or the art of people with knee problems.
    • Quote of Dubuffet on 'Art brut', in 'Art Brut Preferred to the Cultural Arts' (1949); (trans. Joachim Neugroschel), in Mildred Glimcher, Jean Dubuffet: Towards an Alternative Reality, New York: Abbeville Press, 1987, p. 104
  • The Occidental man is not so bad.. .Not bad at all, the brave Aryan [inhabitant of the Saraha].. .I'm not unhappy to be living with him again.. need not go outside of Europe in order to find truly "savage" individuals.. .These savage values to which I attribute more value than all others, appear to show themselves, in our worlds of Europe and America, more forcefully and tempestuously than in all other worlds..


  • For three years I studied very assiduously an Arabic dialect spoken by the Bedouins of the Sahara, and I began by writing this language phonetically in Latin characters; the very strange appearance of the grammatical forms which resulted from it caused me to see that our spoken language is as remote from written language as this Saharan dialect can be from literary Arabic, and that our language written phonetically by a foreigner in the same way as I wrote the spoken language in El Golea, presented grammatical forms as strange (and as fascinating) as my Arabic jargon. It is then that the idea came to me to try to draft a small text written phonetically. I had the feeling that by becoming accustomed to writing (and thinking) in this way, one would be compelled to discover a very interesting species of art, and I am completely passionate about this undertaking.
    • Jean Dubuffet, letter to Raymond Queneau, 30 October 1950; as cited in Prospectus Vol. I, Jean Dubuffet; Gallimard, Paris, 1967, pp. 481-483


  • In all my works.. .. I have always had recourse to one never-varying method. It consists in making the delineation of the objects represented heavily dependent on a system of necessities which itself looks strange. These necessities are sometimes due to the inappropriate and awkward character of the material used, sometimes to some strange obsessive notion [frequently changed for another]. In a word, it is always a matter of giving the person who is looking at the picture a startling impression that a weird logic has directed the painting of it, a logic to which the delineation of every object is subjected, is even sacrificed, in such a peremptory way that, curiously enough, it forces the most unexpected solutions, and, in spite of the obstacles it creates, brings out the desired figuration.
    • Quote of Dubuffet, in Peter Selz and Jean Dubuffet: The work of Jean Dubuffet, The Museum of Modern art, New York, 1962
  • From the point of view of technique, I liked there to be internal lines in objects, I mean that instead of circumscribing forms, they animate the insides of things—the inside of formless and non-delimited areas. They function as internal textures and not primarily as contours.
    • Quote of Dubuffet in Catalogue, p. 47; as cited by Hubert Damisch, in 'Dubuffet or the Reading of the World', in 'Art de France 2' (1962), p. 337–346 (translated by Kent Minturn and Priya Wadhera)
  • In portraits you need a lot of general, very little of specific. Usually there is too much specificity, always too much.. .For a portrait to really work well for me, I need for it to be hardly a portrait. Almost for it to no longer be a portrait. It is then that it begins working at full capacity. I like things carried to the extreme limits of what is possible.
    • Quote in a letter to Max Loreau, 29 June, 1963, reprinted in Prospectus II, Jean Dubuffet; Gallimard, Paris, 1967, pp. 374–375
  • This character of depersonalization is certainly a constant of all my personages.. ..The charm of my Portraits enterprise consisted exactly in undergoing a treatment of depersonalization of the effigies of the persons designated. This persistent drive to depersonalize the persons seems to me to precede the paintings (and is more or less conscious in my mind throughout their execution).. ..[this depersonalisation requires] imagination from the viewer to recognize and complete the portrait.
    • Quote in a letter to Max Loreau, 29 June, 1963, reprinted in Prospectus II, Jean Dubuffet; Gallimard, Paris, 1967, pp. 374–375
  • ..the wind of 'art brut' blows on writing as well as on other avenues of artistic creation.
    • Quote in the text of Jean Dubuffet, 'Project pour un petit texte liminaire introduisant les publications de 'L'art brut dans l'écrire', 1969 (1969), published in Le Langage de la rupture, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1978

Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, 1967[edit]

Quotes of Dubuffet, from: Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, 1967 - Vol. II, Jean Dubuffet; Gallimard, Paris, 1967
  • I do not see in what way the face of a man should be a less interesting landscape than any other. A man, the physical person of a man, is a little world, like any other a country, with its towns, and suburbs.. .As a rule what is needed in a portrait is a great deal of the general, and very little of the particular.
    • p. 63-73
  • The painting will not be looked at passively, not embraced all at once by an observer's immediate gaze. But relived in its elaboration, remade by thought and if I dare say reacted.. .All the gestures made by the painter, he [the observer] feels them reproduced in him.
    • p. 75
  • What interests me about thoughts is not the moment when it crystallizes into formal ideas but its earlier stages.
    • p. 97
  • What seems interesting to me is to reproduce in the figurative representation of an object the whole complex system of impressions we receive in the normal course of everyday life, the way this affects our feelings and the shape it takes in our memory; and it is to this that I have always applied myself.
    • p. 103
  • Our culture is like a garment that does not fit us, or in any case no longer fits us. This culture is like a dead language that no longer has anything in common with the language of the street. It is increasingly alien to our lives.
    • p. 94
  • I have always directed my attempts at the figurative representation of objects by way of summary and not very descriptive brushstrokes, diverging greatly from the real objective measurements of things, and this has led many people to talk about childish drawing.. ..this position of seeing them [the objects] without looking at them too much, without focusing more attention on them than any ordinary man would in normal everyday life..
    • p. 105
  • With respect to the use of this sparkling coloured material [butterfly wings, around 1955] – the constituent parts of which remain indistinguishable – with the aim of producing a very vivid effect of scintillation, I realised that, for me, this responds to needs of the same order as those that formerly led me, in many drawings and paintings, to organize my lines and patches of colour so that the objects represented would meld into everything around them, so that the result would be a sort of continuous, universal soup with an intensive flavour of life.
    • p. 116
  • A work of art is only of interest, in my opinion, when it is an immediate and direct projection of what is happening in the depth of a person's being.. ..It is my belief that only in this Art Brut can we find the natural and normal processes of artistic creation in their pure and elementary state.
    • pp. 203-204
  • There is no such thing as abstract art, or else all art is abstract, which amounts to the same thing. Abstract art no more exists than does curved art yellow art or green art.
    • p. 206
  • The technique used heavy, spiky pastes made of nothing other than ordinary oil paint, used thick and mixed with sand and gravel. I some cases – but these were the exception – a few miscellaneous objects were stuck into the wet paint, such as bits of string or little pieces of glass or mirror.
    • p. 428
    • quote by Dubuffet on his technique, he used in his series Hautes Pâtes, exhibited in 1946
  • I have tried to draw the human effigy (and all the other subjects dealt with in my paintings) in an immediate and effective way without any reference to the aesthetic.
    • p. 430
  • I want my street to be crazy, I want my avenues, shops and buildings, to enter into a crazy dance, and this is why I deform and distort their outlines and colours. However I always come up against the same difficulty, that if all the elements were one by one deformed and distorted excessively, if in the end nothing remained of their real outlines, I would have totally effaced the location that I intended to suggest, that I wished to transform.
    • p. 483
  • Man's need for art is absolutely primordial, as strong as, and perhaps stronger than, our need for bread. Without bread, we die of hunger, but without art we die of boredom.
    • As quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, ed. Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott; Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, p. 14
  • It pleased me (and I think this predilection is more or less constant in all my paintings) to juxtapose brutally, in these feminine bodies, the extremely general and the extremely particular, the metaphysical and the grotesque trivial. In my view, the one is considerably reinforced by the presence of the other. [on his series 'Corps de Dame']
    • As quoted in Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, ed. Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott; Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006


  • Starting from a drawing, a pure creation of the mind, I expand it in space by giving it three dimensions, by giving it a material body [in polystyrene] and then enlarge it to the proportions of a site where it can evolve. In this way, instead of having only the drawing before you while remaining anchored in the everyday world, you can finally leave the world and penetrate into drawing, and thus inhabit the creation of the mind instead of merely looking at it prudently in a frame on the wall. The experience consists, therefore, in abstracting yourself totally from the natural everyday world in order to feed your eyes solely on your own mental elaborations.
    • Note of 7 mai 1968, as quoted in the catalogue of the exhibition La Fiast invita all'incontro con Jean Dubuffet, Turin 1978
  • I associated it [the word 'Hourloupe', as title of his longest series of work he made exclusively from 1962 to 1974] by assonance with 'hurler' (to shout), hululer (to howl), loup, (wolf), 'Riquet à la Houppe' and the title of Maupassant's book ‘Le Horla’, inspired by mental distraction.
    • Quote in Biographie au pas de course, in Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. IV, Jean Dubuffet, Gallimard, Paris 1995, p. 510
  • Art does not lie down on the bed that is made for it; it runs away as soon as one says its name; it loves to go incognito. Its best moments are when it forgets what it is called.
    • Quoted by Alan Magee, in Paintings, Sculpture, Graphics., Forum Gallery, New York, 2004
  • challenge the objective nature of being. The notion of being is presented here as relative rather than irrefutable: it is merely a projection of our minds, a whim of our thinking. The mind has the right to establish being wherever it cares to and for as long as it likes. There is no intrinsic difference between being and fantasy.
  • [children's art] is completely opposed to what interests me, because it's an effort to assimilate culture..
    • In an interview with John M. MacGregor, later published in 'Raw Vision 7' (Summer 1993)

Batons rompus, 1986[edit]

Quotes from: Batons rompus, Jean Dubuffet; Les Editions de Minuit, Paris 1986
  • I had given up [around 1950] any ambition of making a career as an artist.. .I had lost all interest in the art shown in galleries and museums, and I no longer aspired to fit in that world. I loved the paintings done by children, and my only desire was to do the same for my own pleasure.
    • pp. 7-8
  • It was around 1935 or 1936 that I first had the idea of compiling a history of art – not in the usual way, but considering only the fads that have succeeded one another down through the ages. For example, the infatuation in Roman times with broken pleats and heads turned in profile.. ..or during the epoch of Pérugin and Raphael, a certain blue that appears everywhere. I wanted to draw up an inventory of these vogues. To this end I visited museums, took notes in little notebooks, and made demonstrative sketches of paintings. For this purpose I preferred bad paintings, by which I mean those held to be mediocre by aesthetes, but in which these fads that interested me were clearly in evidence.
    • pp. 17, 18
  • ..I have never managed to grasp what exactly 'pataphysics' consisted of; but in short what I have always seen in it is a desire to disconnect philosophy from the discipline of logic, and to admit incoherence as a legitimate component of it. [comment on visiting frequently the Collège de 'Pataphysique']
    • p. 19
  • I took a great deal of pleasure in it, and I still feel nostalgic about it. However, I felt that it had led me to live in a parallel world of pure invention, shut inside my solitude. Naturally, it was precisely for that purpose that it was made and that was why I took pleasure in it, but I wanted to regain body and roots.
    • pp. 34-35

Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, 2006[edit]

Quotes from: Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews, ed. Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott; Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona, 2006
  • I have always been haunted by the feeling that the painter has much to gain from making use of the forces that tend to work against his action
    • p. 9
  • Fautrier's exhibition [in Paris 1945] made an extremely strong impression on me. Art had never before appeared so fully realised in its pure state. The word 'art' had never before been so loaded with meaning for me.
    • pp. 23,28: quote in Dubuffet's letter to Jean Paulhan (letter 108)
  • I have observed that very often I gain access to a little secret that I have sought for a long time by way of a fortuitous encounter quite unrelated to the matter: for example six months I try to draw a camel in a way that satisfies me, and I make a thousand attempts without ever managing to do it. Then one day it is a drawing of a plump on the label of a pot of jam or the shadow thrown by an ink pot, or something or other equally unrelated to the matter that provides me with the solution. This kind of thing has happened so often that I have acquired the habit of always being on the outlook, and when I want to draw a camel I no longer limit myself, as I once did, to looking (only, fh) at camels..
    • p. 44; quote in Dubuffet's letter to Jean Paulhan (letter 123)
  • Art should be born from the materials.
    • p. 68; in Notes pour les finslettrés
  • At present [around 1960-1970] I make objects (whether a type-writer, wheelbarrow, bed or fishingboat..) very 'hourloupés' [like his painting: Courre Merlan (Whiting Chase), 1964. What I mean is that I am swimming upstream against the 'l'Hourloupe' current. I am approaching it from the opposite direction: instead of starting out with indeterminate lines that eventually give me a wheelbarrow, I start out with the idea of making a wheelbarrow and then add my indeterminate lines. In effect what I am doing is making the current run simultaneously in both directions at the same time.
    • p. 81; Comment of Dubuffet on the occasion of his 1984 exhibition at the Venice Biennale


Quotes about Jean Dubuffet[edit]

sorted chronologically, after date of the quotes about Jean Dubuffet
  • Because it was indeed a wager made by the creator of the 'Vues de Paris' [Views of Paris] and 'Mirobolus, Macadam & Cie'. A wager on the aesthetic scope of means of representation and materials held as unworthy, and which he would be the first to use in a no longer occasional, but rather systematic and exclusive way: soils and white lead, clinker, tar mixed with grit, tow, shavings, scratches, incisions and scrapings, imprints and reliefs, which one will find precisely named in the invaluable working notes of the painter. A wager, more adventurous still, on the effectiveness that the spectator would be able to recognize in these representations that are certainly barbaric, but also completely devoid of the picturesque.
  • By claiming to recognize in the madman, the child, the visionary, and man in general, a common function, the function of art, the same in all cases, Dubuffet satisfied the demand for an art which was authentically that of man, and no longer the privilege of a certain group or class. A demand whose simultaneously historical and utopian character, which is to say the critical relationship it maintains with contemporary society, he did not underestimate.. ..Dubuffet connects with the Gauguin of the Marquesas Islands. But there is no longer any need, today, to flee to the antipodes of the globe to invent a modern art: this can very well be done in Paris, and even in Vence.
  • Total abstraction was something intellectual to me. I didn't feel it.. ..I saw a Dubuffet show at Pierre Matisse [the son of Henri Matisse who run an art-gallery in New York then] in the late forties and came back with a new vocabulary.
    • quote by Helen Frankenthaler, in an 'Interview with Helen Frankenthaler', Henry Geldzahler; Artforum 4. no. 2, October 1965, p. 36
  • The very troubling intensity of Dubuffet's portraits is not the effect of an exact resemblance, but on the contrary, comes from extreme deformation, from a game of occultations which preserves the effigy on its apparition. The painting agitates like a mechanism of image variation which insidiously deforms physiognomy to the limits of denaturalization..
    • Quote of Michel Thévoz, in 'Variations Physiogmomiques: de Töpper à Dubuffet,' in 'Les Temps Modernes' 258 (November 1967), p. 895
  • In my estimation these heavily impastoed 'haute pâte' [thick paste paintings, Dubuffet made c. 1945-46] ..which introduce base materials (e.g., sand, asphalt, and pebbles) into high art, are not simply attempts to shock, or to achieve succès de scandale, by returning figuration to a more 'primitive' or infantile state (as many of Dubuffet's early critics and detractors claimed). They also reflect, albeit negatively, an historically specific phenomena—namely, the classicizing 'rappel à l'ordre' [turning back to the order and nationalistic retour à la terre [return to the earth] mentalities rampant in France at the time. Dubuffet's writings from this period are replete with explicit and implicit denunciations of this 'return' to classicism via the Renaissance.. .For instance.. .. Dubuffet lambastes this return of 'Greekeries, post-Greekeries, and neo-Greekeries' in contemporary art, and elsewhere [he] describes himself as staunchly 'anti-Humanist'.

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: