Executed in the summer of 1952, Jean Dubuffet's Exaltation du ciel (Exaltation of the sky) belongs to an important group of works entitled Landscapes Tables, Landscapes of the Mind, and Stones of Philosophy. The artist produced this series in 1951-1952, introducing new materials into his work. These paintings were composed of a mixture of sand, plaster, varnish, zinc oxide, carbonized lime, coal powder, and polymerized oil, called Spot putty or Swedish putty. The mortar-like paste was then scrubbed, scraped and scratched by the artist into a vibrant living surface. The landscape paintings of these years are the culmination of Dubuffet's aim to interact with what he believed was the inherently animate nature of these materials. The artist respected the various mediums he used and did not impose his will, instead he created a unified surface from which the painting emerges. The results expose some of Dubuffet's impressions of the Sahara desert and his fascination for continuous surfaces.
Exaltation du ciel is both a concrete and mental landscape. Its extraordinary relief and light variation of color can be compared to old sculpted wood. The variety of terrain within the painting is reminiscent of the abandoned ruins of ancient cities. The viewer can imagine foundations, crypts, and fragments of pottery veiled beneath the depicted landscape. Upon closer inspection, everything disappears: surfaces seem like puddles of mud where stagnate skeletons of prehistoric fish reside. Exaltation du ciel explores, through highly material means, the immaterial quality of human imagination. The separation of the canvas into upper white and lower brown quadrants represents a disassociation between the earth and the sky producing something more metaphysical.