JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)

Danse brune (Brown Dance)

JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)
Danse brune (Brown Dance)
signed and dated 'J. Dubuffet 59' (upper right); titled and dated 'Danse brune Decembre 59' (on the reverse)
banana skin, papier-mâché and oil on panel, in artist's frame
27 1/8 x 18 1/8in. (68.9 x 45.9cm.)
Executed in 1959
Arthur Tooth & Sons, London.
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1960).
Thence by descent to the present owner.
M. Loreau (ed.), Catalogue des Travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Matériologies, Fascicule XVII, Aug 1959-1961, Lausanne 1969, no. 49 (illustrated, p. 48).
G. Bazin, The Avant-Garde in the History of Painting, London 1969, p. 296, no. 258 (illustrated in colour, p. 297).
A. Franzke, Dubuffet, New York 1981, pp. 133 and 279 (illustrated, p. 134).
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Jean Dubuffet, Éléments Botaniques, 1960, no. 4 (illustrated, unpaged).
London, Tate Gallery, Jean Dubuffet Paintings, 1966, no. 101 (illustrated, p. 54).
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.

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Anna Touzin
Anna Touzin Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Acquired one year after its creation, and unseen in public since its inclusion in Jean Dubuffet’s major retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London in 1966, Danse brune (Brown Dance) is a magnificent and rare example of his Éléments Botaniques (Botanical Elements). Executed between August and December 1959, the series comprises a group of small-scale assemblages made up of vegetable matter, their raw, visceral surfaces transporting the viewer into an underworld of foliage. Here, set against a backdrop of papier-mâché on board, Dubuffet presents a biomorphic figure composed entirely of banana skins: the only example in the series to feature this medium. With outstretched arms and a shock of hair, the charming, primordial creature is at one with its environment, blending seamlessly into what appears to be moss or lichen behind it. A vision of organic splendour, Danse brune marks a striking new chapter in Dubuffet’s career-long exploration of Art Brut: a self-defined concept which championed a primitive, unschooled visual language, free from the trappings of Western cultural tradition.

In his search for an unfettered mode of artistic expression, Dubuffet repeatedly isolated himself from the confines of mainstream society, making frequent trips to the Sahara Desert in the 1940s, before finally exiling himself in the rural idyll of Vence in 1955. During his time in the Southern French region, he developed a great enthusiasm for the botanical world, leading him to embark on an encyclopaedic study of the nature that surrounded him. Extending his butterfly-wing pictures of 1953, as well as the mimetic Texturologies series he began in 1957, Dubuffet eventually began to insert vegetal matter directly into his picture planes, employing botanic forms in their raw, unmodified state. Thus, the Éléments Botaniques were born, marking the apotheosis of his engagement with the natural world.

Danse brune was acquired directly from the exhibition of Éléments Botaniques held at Arthur Tooth & Sons in 1960: one of Dubuffet’s earliest London shows. Writing in the catalogue, Lawrence Alloway noted that the works ‘are small in size, taking their scale from the plants in them, like herbs protected in small plots from exposure’ (L. Alloway, Jean Dubuffet: Éléments Botaniques, exh. cat. Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd., London 1960, unpaged). Reading like a botanist’s list, with their contents spanning dried leaves and tree bark to roots and flowers, orange peel and rhubarb stems, the Éléments Botaniques extended Dubuffet’s fascination with the relationship between the body and the landscape. Just as his early Corps de dames (Bodies of Women) had transformed the female figure into sprawling, textured topographies, the present work posits its subject as a direct product of the earth. Its jubilant, dancing form, meanwhile, anticipates the ecstatic figures of his Paris Circus paintings, begun the following year, whose writhing bodies would merge seamlessly with the rhythms of the urban landscape.

Danse brune demonstrates the wide-ranging scope of Dubuffet’s visual imagination during this period. On one hand, its thick, textured background closely aligns with development of Art Informel taking place in Europe, led by the likes of Antoni Tàpies, Jean Fautrier, Alberto Burri and Pierre Soulages. At the same time, its mottled background recalls the canvases of American Abstract Expressionism, particularly the gestural, all-over surfaces of Jackson Pollock: the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark exhibition The New American Painting, notably, toured Europe during this period. The work also conjures Dubuffet’s fascination with primitive art, its idiosyncratic figure reminiscent of ancient graffiti, cave painting and archaeological ruins. A splendid synergy of his artistic influences, and a glorious instance of his whimsical aesthetic, Danse brune is alive with the joys of creation itself.

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