JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)
JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)
JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)
JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more A CENTURY OF ART: THE GERALD FINEBERG COLLECTION
JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)

Tête en tache de moisissure

JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)
Tête en tache de moisissure
signed and dated ‘J. Dubuffet avril 50’ (lower right)
oil and sand on masonite
25 1/2 x 21 1/4in. (64.9 x 54cm.)
Executed in 1950
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
Charles H. Carpenter, Jr. Collection, New Canaan (acquired from the above in 1952).
His sale, Christie’s New York, 16 November 2006, lot 130.
Private Collection, New York (acquired at the above sale).
Dickinson, New York.
Private Collection, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
J. Fitzsimmons, Jean Dubuffet: Brève introduction à son œuvre, Brussels 1958, no. 15 (illustrated, unpaged).
M. Loreau (ed.), Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet. Fascicule VI: Corps de dames, Paris 1966, p. 115, no. 27 (illustrated, p. 31).
M. Paquet, Dubuffet, Paris 1993, no. 100 (illustrated, p. 84).
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings by Jean Dubuffet, 1951, p. 4, no. 25.
Providence, The Rhode Island School of Design Museum, 1900 to Now: Modern Art from Rhode Island Collections, 1988, p. 126 (illustrated in colour, p. 19).
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art, Charles H. Carpenter, Jr.: The Odyssey of a Collector, 1996, p. 66 (illustrated in colour, p. 67; illustrated in colour in Charles H. Carpenter, Jr.'s home, pp. 81 and 129).
Ridgefield, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, The Charles H. Carpenter, Jr. Collection: Fifty Years of Supporting the New, 2002.
London, Dickinson, Personnages: Real and Abstract, 2021.
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Painted in April 1950, Jean Dubuffet’s Tête en tache de moisissure is a ground-breaking portrait from the artist’s Intermèdes series. Rendered in crusting layers of oil, the work is an emphatic example of Dubuffet’s career-defining, and life-long commitment to art brut (‘raw art’). Eschewing the academic and art historical models of beauty and aesthetics in favour of an intuitive, almost primordial simplification of form, Dubuffet’s art brut sought inspiration from art that hovered outside of consecrated convention, including that created by children, prisoners, psychiatric patients and the mentally ill. Veering from figuration towards abstraction, lichenous spores of olive green and brown bloom on the mottled masonite surface, obfuscating Dubuffet’s subject. This work was one of twelve amorphous heads exhibited at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in 1951. The youngest son of Henri Matisse, Pierre Matisse played a pivotal role in bringing Dubuffet and other European modernist artists to rapid success in the American market. Purchased by Charles H. Carpenter, Jr in 1952, the painting was the first of several by the artist to enter the prestigious Carpenter collection, where it remained for over half a century.

Painted within the same crucial month that Dubuffet commenced his acclaimed Corps de Dames series, this portrait is boldly rudimentary. Running adjacent to Corps de Dames, which featured similarly confronting impasto bodies and busts of women, Intermèdes is distinct for its fluid and transformative subjects. Delighting not in representational likeness, but in the stark, tactile appeal of his mortar-like paint, Dubuffet renders two eyes, a nose, and an endearing toothy smile with child-like incisions, scratches and scrapes. Working into his surface, rather than upon it, Dubuffet abandons traditional painting techniques in favour of a more invigorated and elementary mark-making, more akin to sculpture. The coarse, earth-like texture of the work presents a sculptural relief, within which we are invited to distinguish, uncover, and excavate form. Significantly, just months prior to this painting, Dubuffet had returned from his third stay in the Sahara, and the influence of landscape is unmistakable. Vivid memories of a formidable desert terrain, formed of sedimentary layers of sands and baked earths, are expressed in Dubuffet’s rich conjuring of topography upon the masonite board. The head appears embedded within its support like a fossil, or an ancient carved artefact. This masterful elision of organic, geological form with physiognomy imbues the work with a powerful air of the prehistoric, and attests to the fluid, metamorphic subject matters of the Intermèdes series.

Possessing the work for over fifty years, Carpenter warmed to the portrait’s benign and enigmatic presence, stating ‘I find this great flattened face floating peacefully on the picture plane to be very beautiful and quite lyrical’. While on business in Europe in 1960, Carpenter stayed with Dubuffet at his studio in Vence in the South of France. Perplexed by an abstract painting the artist was working on at the time, Dubuffet explained he was painting the ground. Escorting Carpenter outside, pointing to the earth beneath their feet, and acclaiming its beauty, Carpenter reflected that ‘looking at that the little patch of bare earth with Dubuffet did make it beautiful’ (C. H. Carpenter and K. Larson, Charles H. Carpenter, Jr.: The Odyssey of a Collector, Pittsburgh 1996, pp. 66-67).

Indeed, Carpenter’s sympathy for this unperturbed, terrestrial creature aligns poignantly with Dubuffet’s own indiscriminate principles of art brut. ‘The 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’, he wrote. ‘... The beauty of an object depends on how we look at it and not at all on its proper proportions’ (J. Dubuffet, quoted in P. Selz (ed.), The Work of Jean Dubuffet, New York 1962, p. 64). Stripping his painting of aesthetic pretences, Dubuffet creates space to honour the inexhaustible act of looking itself. Like an archaeologist uncovering an ancient stone from the earth, he reveals a fundamental and raw beauty latent in all objects.

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