'The assemblages of 1961-2 not only demonstrate the success of Dubuffet's novel lithographic technique, but also constitute a rogue's gallery of unforgettable personalities. The wry purveyors of essential human character communicate their diversity through succinct turns of the mouth or tilts of the nose. [His] creatures...convey the universality of man's frailties, foibles and humour' (A. Isselbacher, 'Jean Dubuffet, A Hunter of Images', in Dubuffet Prints from MOMA, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1989, unpaged).
A rare suite of colour lithographs, Jean Dubuffet’s L’enfle-chique III (‘the inflated snob’) is a joyful testament to the artist’s love of texture and raw sense of experimentation with natural material and organic forms. Other examples of this work are notably housed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Printed in 1961, this suite was created at the zenith of Dubuffet’s groundbreaking experimentation with lithography and evolved from his seminal Phenomena series, 1957 – 62. A quest to create prints without ever touching a brush, this group of lithographs is considered by many as one of the most prodigious undertakings in the history of modern graphic art. As Dubuffet explained of these radical lithographs, ‘sometimes I took imprints of every chance element that might even suggest something: the ground, walls, stones, old suitcases, any or every sort of object—I even went so far as to do them from the naked skin of a friend’s back—and sometimes I obtained astonishing images…that I had sprinkled with tiny elements such as wires, crumbs, bits of torn paper, and all sorts of debris...’ (J. Dubuffet, quoted in A. Fratzke, Dubuffet, New York 1981, p. 129). During a five-year frenzy of printmaking, Dubuffet produced a diverse range of difficult-to-categorize abstractions that embraced chance and accident through experimentations with organic forms and unconventional chemical reactions, impressing dirt, fruit peelings, and leaves onto his printing surfaces, or pulling burning rags and spilling chemicals over the plate. By 1962, Dubuffet had assembled over 362 lithographs into twenty-four albums, which would provide him with the printed raw material for his subsequent project of cutting up and re-assembling these lithographs in countless variations to create new compositions, such as the present one. As such, L’enfle-chique III is a beautiful example of Dubuffet’s pioneering embrace of the revolutionary potential of lithography, which the Museum of Modern Art in New York notably celebrated with the recent exhibition Jean Dubuffet: Soul of the Underground.