Painted in March 1953, Paysage au tireur à l'arc is one of the earliest of Dubuffet's Pâtes battues. This was a group of paintings in which Dubuffet returned to the use of thick, vigorous paint surfaces to create his vistas, which ranged from still life to landscape. In Paysage au tireur à l'arc, amidst the large expanse of the swirling, textured landscape of gnarled flesh-tone impasto that dominates so much of the surface, various forms emerge into focus on close inspection. Two figures in the centre, of which one is the eponymous archer, trees on the horizon, a sun in the background, and on the left, a cow prefiguring the celebrated paintings of cows Dubuffet created the following year. These mirage-like figures have been incised into the surface, rather than painted, and resemble cave paintings and graffiti more than the traditional oil on canvas paintings to which the viewer is perhaps accustomed. They are part of the mass of paint and form with which Dubuffet has rendered this corner of the universe, lending it a sense of totality and universality. At the same time, they perfectly show the extent to which Dubuffet has discarded any Western sense of perspective, of horizontal or vertical planes. Indeed, Dubuffet has deliberately stripped away the gloss of aesthetics to make a painting that is direct, giving an almost electric shock of contact with its kaleidoscopic colours, reminiscent of some of the abstractions preferred by so many of his contemporaries, while the whimsical charm of the characters depicted wholly reflects the generosity of spirit that fills Dubuffet's paintings and makes them so consistently engaging.
'These paintings are done with a smooth light coloured (almost white) paste, fairly thick, spread unevenly and rapidly with a plasterer's knife over layers already thickly painted and still fresh, in such a way that the various colours underneath show where the paste is missing, as well as tint the paste here and there. Then rudimentary figures, hastily traced with a round knife cutting into the paste, play over the surface like graffiti, the variously coloured strokes corresponding to the generally dark colours of the previously painted layers. I derived a curiously keen satisfaction from these designs cut into the paste (this white paste, ordinary pigment so finely ground as to resemble butter, gives them a lively subtle character)...I am at a loss to explain just what it was in these paintings that gave me - that still gives me - such a keen satisfaction. It probably has something to do with the physical pleasure derived from spreading freely, with a large spatula as broad as one's hand, this beautiful white paste, dazzling and consistent, over a ground previously covered with dark colours, and then letting the long knife with rounded end wander over the smooth paste, tracing with such perfect ease graffiti of sonorous colour. It is the same pleasure that guides the hand of anyone who traces a very hasty design or a word in the fresh plaster of a wall or the freshly smoothed cement of a floor...' (J. Dubuffet, Memoir on the Development of My Work from 1952, pp. 73-138 in P. Selz, The Work of Jean Dubuffet, New York 1962, pp. 78-80).