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Jean Debuffet Lot 24
Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE GERMAN COLLECTION
Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)

Étanche Ibitryx Monte Crème

Details
Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
Étanche Ibitryx Monte Crème
signed and dated ‘J. Dubuffet 55’ (upper left); signed, titled and dated ‘Etanche Ibitryx Monte Crême (Sic) J. Dubuffet octobre 55’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
45 ¾ x 35 ¼in. (116.3 x 89.5cm.)
Painted in October 1955
Provenance
Private Collection, Geneva.
Anon. sale, Kornfield & Klipstein Bern, 8 June 1977, lot 162.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
M. Loreau (ed.), Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet – Charrettes, jardins, personnages monolithes, fascicule XI, Lausanne 1969, p. 136, no. 176 (illustrated, p. 118).
Exhibited
Geneva, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Le Visage de l’Homme dans L’art Contemporain, 1967, no. 38 (illustrated, unpaged).
Hamburg, Museum für 40 Tage, Museum? Museum! Museum. Kunst von heute aus Hamburger Privatsammlungen, 1985, p. 102 (illustrated, p. 103).
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Jean Dubuffet. Ein Leben im Laufschritt, 2009, p. 190, no. 84 (illustrated in colour, p. 91).
Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, 1986-2015 (on long term loan).

Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Sale Room Notice

Please note that the medium for this work is ‘oil on canvas’

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Lot Essay

‘I feel a sharp curiosity for everything that does not emanate from man, in which man has not intervened. This is the reason for my marked preference for wild things, for everything that exists very far away from man: wild places, wild animals, and so on. They seem to me to be envoys from mysterious, unknown lands. It is also the reason, undoubtedly, for my interest in worlds very distant from that of man – in particular the mineral world. As for human beings, it is also their wildness that I am fond of’ — J. Dubuffet

‘Painting can illumine the world with magnificent discoveries. It can imbue man with new myths and new mystiques, to reveal the infinitely numerous undivined aspects of things and values of which we were formerly unaware’ – J. Dubuffet

A primordial being returns our gaze from the rich surface of Jean Dubuffet’s Étanche Ibitryx Monte Crème (1955). Dubuffet’s figure holds one arm coyly folded across its body, recalling the compact repose of a Cycladic marble idol; the work’s palimpsest of distressed oil paint is also suggestive of the earthly and ancient. The effigy emerges from a flat but intensely textural blue-black setting – dense with sgraffito, like the walls of a cave – and is almost luminous in pale tones of parchment and sandstone. In places its outlines are encroached upon by the background as if partly submersed; its hands and features – a face, a navel, indistinct genitalia, perhaps some ribs – are delicately rendered in fine lines and a patina of gentle hues. On long term loan from 1986-2015 at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, like a precious fossil or an organism formed from clay, this enigmatic presence celebrates the highly charged potential that Dubuffet found in his unique treatment of the human body. As Michel Thévoz writes, ‘Dubuffet understands how to bring out in the human physiognomy the epidermal or cellular subconscious that appears in the layer just beneath the surface in a painting and in the physical world in general’ (M. Thévoz, Dubuffet, Geneva 1986, p. 58). Through his repurposing of anthropomorphic form Dubuffet uncovers the primal drives that course through life and art, creating an apparition of serene and benevolent power.

Disavowing the conventional aesthetics of Western art, Dubuffet proclaimed that truth could be found only in Art Brut or ‘raw art.’ He believed that ‘[o]ur culture is like a garment that does not fit us, or in any case no longer fits us’ (J. Dubuffet, Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Vol. 1, Paris 1967, p. 94). In his dissolution of the human form to its basic matter, placing its schematic elements in an indistinct and flattened composition, he sought to monumentalise his artistic creed. The present work’s nonsensical title – translating to something like Waterproof Ibitryx Climbs Cream – further enacts this defection from orthodox systems of thought, and underlines Dubuffet’s irreverent humour. The figure is apparently naked, making an ironic nod to the great artistic tradition of the nude: this strange and de-skeletoned body is comfortable in its appearance, like the other Personnages monolithes (Monolith characters), in which series it can be placed. Étanche Ibitryx Monte Crème is a magnificent rebuttal to a ‘specious notion of beauty:’ the artist decreed in 1952 that ‘[t]he idea that there are beautiful objects and ugly objects, people endowed with beauty and others who cannot claim it, has surely no other foundation than convention – old poppycock – and I declare that convention unhealthy’ (J. Dubuffet, ‘Preface 1952,’ quoted in P. Selz, Dubuffet, exh. cat. Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1962, p. 64).

The work is exquisitely delicate, even while recalling the coarse textures of earth, sand, and vegetable matter that had always delighted Dubuffet and would come to the fore in the late-1950s Texturologies, his odes to the life of the soil. Where many works employ a very thick paste of oil paint – to which asphalt and gravel were even added in the Texturologies Étanche Ibitryx Monte Crème achieves a vivid surface through surprisingly subtle layers, a topography of painterly strata reminiscent of lichen blooming over stone. This effect is born from chance and spontaneity: ‘spreading generously with a spatula would create a very clear and explosive (almost white) tone on top of older (dry or half dry) layers … now I applied various new tints of colour onto this fresh white paste, without letting it dry at all, onto entire newspapers with their perpendicular creases, and deliberately crumpled them. This application removed a large part of the tints from the last operation and only left stains and bursts organised into an interesting way (traces left by the creases from the applied paper). To finish it off, I would … brush over the background in black in such a way as to keep the silhouettes of a figure … whose imprecise contours and stark contrast between the white on black created a sense of detachment and made them look like menhirs. I only needed gently to complete these faces with a brush, taking care not to compromise with excessive interventions the character that emerges from this particular effect: that of stone-faces born of deliberately quasi-strange circumstances and instantly sprung out of a block’ (J. Dubuffet, quoted in Jean Dubuffet, exh. cat. Galerie Boulakia, Paris 2007, p. 60). A menhir is a standing stone – a monolith – and just as such ancient monuments still stand today, potent with prehistoric spiritual force, Dubuffet imbues his humble personnage with transcendent and eternal beauty.

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