In the raw: Dubuffet’s sophisticated drawings

Dubuffet Drawings, 1935-62, Morgan Library & Museum, New York, until 2 January 2017


When Jean Dubuffet (1901-85) abandoned his family’s wine business to take up art full-time in his 40s, he pledged that he would finally learn to draw. The champion of art brut had studied draughtsmanship years before at the fine arts academy in his native Le Havre, northern France. He sought fresh inspiration in the awkward drawings of children and the everyday, careless marks of “a finger on fogged glass or a knifepoint on a lump of butter”, as he wrote to his friend and fellow painter Gaston Chaissac. Dubuffet worked quickly and prodigiously, producing almost 3,000 works on paper by the time of his 1965 catalogue raisonné and destroying many more. 

Around 100 of his drawings from 1935-62 are now on view at New York’s Morgan Library in the first major museum exhibition dedicated to Dubuffet’s works on paper. The show’s seven sections reveal the sophisticated techniques that lay behind the artist’s apparently untutored style. His experiments included caricatures scratched graffiti-like on boards, and textured assemblages composed of butterflies’ wings, sliced imprints of vegetation and even actual plants. The exhibition is sponsored by the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation and the Florence Gould Foundation. 

Jean Dubuffet’s Jardin medieval (Medieval Garden, 1955). Glimcher Family Collection © Artists Rights Society/ADAGP


By Hannah McGivern




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