About the Artist
Jean Dubuffet was a French painter and sculptor who brought a wild and savage style of art to post-war France and America. “Man’s need for art is absolutely primordial,” he said, “as strong as, and perhaps stronger than, our need for bread. Without bread, we die of hunger, but without art we die of boredom.”
Early Life and Education
Jean Dubuffet was born in 1901 in Le Havre, to a wealthy family of wine merchants. At the age of 17, Dubuffet moved to Paris to study painting at the Academie Julian. After just six months at the Academie, he left to study on his own.
In 1921, Dubuffet gave up painting for a time to concentrate on literature, music and languages.
After his military service in 1923, he again stopped painting and returned to Le Havre to run the family business.
Dubuffet’s first marriage was to Paulette Bret, with whom he had a daughter, but separated from in 1933. By that time he had opened a wine wholesale business in Paris and rented a studio.
In 1935, Dubuffet once again began to paint full time but was forced to abandon painting once more to save his company from bankruptcy. He married Emilie Carlu, who encouraged his artistic endeavors and opened their home to artists, musicians, writers and actors.
In 1939, it was World War ll, that forced Dubuffet to put his life on hold while he served in the French military.
Finally, in 1942, Dubuffet devoted himself to his art and continued to paint for the rest of his life. The first exhibition he had at the Galerie Rene Drouin in Paris, caused a lot of controversy because of the seemingly amateurish and random style of his work.
Dubuffet traveled to Switzerland, and made several trips to Algeria, where he became fascinated by the works of ‘outsider artists’, and especially be the works of children, psychiatric patients and prisoners. He called this work Art Brut or Raw Art and amassed a large collection of outsider art.
His own work was eventually very well received, especially in America, where he exhibited in the New York gallery of influential art dealer Pierre Matisse, Henri Matisse’s youngest son.
Dubuffet died in Paris in 1985 at the age of 83.
Dubuffet’s collection of Art Brut is housed in Luasanne, Switzerland. His own works can be found in major museums and galleries around the world.
Jean Dubuffet Self Portrait 1936
Jean Dubuffet Subway 1943
Jean Dubuffet The Cow With the Subtle Nose 1954
Jean Dubuffet Site to the Man Sitting 1974