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Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
This lot is exempt from Sales Tax. Property from The Museum of Modern Art, sold to benefit the Acquisitions Fund
Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)

High Heels (Les hauts talons)

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
High Heels (Les hauts talons)
signed and dated 'J. Dubuffet 1946' (lower right)
oil, powdered pigment and sand on canvas
23¾ x 21 in. (63.5 x 53.3 cm.)
Painted in 1946.
Sidney and Harriet Janis, New York
Gift from the above to the present owner
M. Loreau, ed., Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Lausanne, 1966 (Fascicule II: Mirobolus, Macadam et Cie), p. 101, no. 152 (illustrated).
Three Generations of Twentieth-Century Art: The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1972, p. 101 (illustated).
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, French Art, May 1954.
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, A Selection of Paintings & Sculptures from the Gallery Collection, October-December 1961, n.p., no. 9 (illustrated).
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, 2 Generations: Picasso to Pollock, March-April 1964.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Jean Dubuffet at The Museum of Modern Art, October 1968.
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Lot Essay

The subject of Les hauts talons struts her stuff in her high heels. Painted in 1946, this picture shows a character from Dubuffet's enchanting universe of personalities from the real world, from the streets of the cities, from the towns and the country, who appeared in his paintings during the mid-1940s. Resembling children's art in its absolute simplicity of outline, Les hauts talons has an innocence, an unaffected enthusiasm, that allows the viewer to share in the artist's own exhilarating fascination with the world around him. There is nothing hidden or intellectual in the presentation of the picture and the theme: instead, Dubuffet has created something for everyone, an infectiously happy painting that can be understood by the man on the street and can put a smile on his face. As Dubuffet said, 'Art should make us laugh a little and frighten us a little, but never bore us' (Dubuffet, Prospectus aux amateurs de tout genre, Paris, 1946, p.43, quoted in P. Selz, The Work of Jean Dubuffet, New York, 1962, p. 37).

While the outline of the woman in Les hauts talons resembles children's or psychotic art, the rich texture of the surface is very much Dubuffet's. Writing about his paintings during this period, Dubuffet had said that it would not be surprising if his viewers found the marks of fingers or spoons in his paint surface, as this was precisely the type of implement - or lack of one - with which he painted. The organic growth of the surface impasto, the way that Dubuffet has scratched, scrawled and built up the paint itself, gives a strong and raw sense of life. This is both the life of the artist, traced in the finger-marks and grooves of the paint, and the life of the girl in high heels: 'An artwork is all the more enthralling the more of an adventure it has been, particularly if it bears the mark of this adventure, and if one can discern all the struggles that occurred between the artist and the intractabilities of the materials. And if he himself did not know where it would all lead' (Dubuffet, 'Notes for the Well-Read', pp. 67-86, Jean Dubuffet: Towards an Alternative Reality, ed. M. Glimcher, New York, 1987, p. 69).



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