Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty

JeanDubuffet,Skedaddle(L’Escampette) 31 October 1964, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London

Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty is the first major UK exhibition of the work of French artist  Jean Dubuffet (1901–1985) in over 50 years. One of the most provocative voices in postwar modern art, Dubuffet rebelled against conventional ideas of beauty, hoping to capture the poetry of everyday life in a gritty, more authentic way.

Jean Dubuffet, Telephone Torment (Le Supplice du téléphone)
1944, Collection Fondation Dubuffet, Paris © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London

Drawn from international public and private collections, Brutal Beauty brings together more than 150 works: from early portraits, lithographs and fantastical statues to enamel paintings, butterfly assemblages and giant colourful canvases.

JeanDubuffet,Paris-Montparnasse 5–21 March 1961, Private Collection
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London

Spanning four decades in the studio, Brutal Beauty highlights Dubuffet’s endless experimentation with tools and materials, as he blended paint with shards of glass, coal dust, pebbles, slithers of string and gravel.

JeanDubuffetinVence,1959 Photograph by John Craven
© Archives Fondation Dubuffet, Paris / © John Craven

Living and working in the heart of liberated Paris, surrounded by the devastation of the Second World War, Dubuffet had taken to mixing his paint with found materials – layering his canvases into powerfully visceral objects, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. From the outset, Dubuffet was drawn to other untrained artists, graffitists, tattooists, spiritualists, people who were incarcerated and individuals in psychiatric care, whose creativity felt so much more inspiring to him than anything on display in the city’s museums. He invented the concept of ‘Art Brut’ (literally meaning ‘raw’ art) and from 1945 was passionate about its research and recognition.

LaurePigeon,11December1953(11 décembre 1953)
1953, Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne

Shown alongside his work are two dedicated rooms from Dubuffet’s collection of Art Brut, acquired throughout his life – shedding light on artists such as Aloïse CorbazFleury-Joseph CrépinGaston Duf., and Laure Pigeon, who profoundly inspired his approach to the making and understanding of art.

It opens at Barbican Art Gallery, London on 17 May 2021

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