Jean Dubuffet - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips
  • Jean Dubuffet’s La liquidité du monde, 1952, belongs to a discrete group of works which redefined the genre of landscape painting. One of nearly 40 paintings in the groundbreaking series, Landscaped Tables, Landscapes of the Mind, Stones of Philosophy, painted between 1951 and 1952, the present work depicts an abstracted landscape with no particular landmarks. The textured earth red field at the lower part of the canvas suggests an otherworldly or ancient land, its specific location left to interpretation by the viewer. A distinct break from the landscape tradition of his predecessors, the present work beautifully illustrates Dubuffet’s pioneering Art Brut style and his fascination with the relationship between humans and their land that would become essential to his work.

    “I see my landscapes as a marriage between the conceptual and the concrete. Here are the forms of the earth, the terrain under your feet, the landscape which is everywhere.”
    —Jean Dubuffet

    Constructed Landscapes

    Created shortly after the artist’s three trips to the Sahara Desert beginning in 1947, La liquidité du monde resembles an expansive deserted landscape. With no unique signifiers of place, the rocky terrain becomes more imagined than physical. Dubuffet chooses to represent the earth with a rough, mortar-like paste created from an amalgamation of natural materials such as sand, zinc oxide, and coal powder called “spot putty” which is then scraped and incised to create a textured variation. An uneven band of white mixed with the putty occupies the very top of the composition. The aesthetic qualities of the medium add a three-dimensional element to the traditional genre, and the omission of any figures among the topography helps to emphasize the earth in its uninhabited beauty. The result is a vast expanse of land born from various mediums found in the places which inspired him. Not choosing to represent the landscape dutifully, La liquidité du monde, translating to “the world’s liquidity,” captures the spirit of the world we inhabit, rather than focuses on any kind of likeness, thus shifting away from the French landscape traditions of direct observation.


     A detail of the present work.

    Dubuffet’s Outsider Art


    A pioneer of Art Brut and the Outsider Art movement, Dubuffet rejected the traditional art historical canon in favor of a more “raw” or primitive style of production. The movement took inspiration from the art of children, prisoners and psychiatric patients, finding beauty in mundane, human experience and attracting artists such as André Breton and Adolf Wölfli. La liquidité du monde explores the notions found in Outsider Art, and utilizes simple, inexpensive materials. By highlighting the variations in these mediums rather than disguising them as something other, Dubuffet pays a unique respect to his craft, similar to how he himself treated his natural surroundings. Close inspection of the red earth in Dubuffet’s masterwork reveals what could be skeletons, insects, hieroglyphics, ceramics, and other prehistoric wonders. As such, Dubuffet’s La liquidité du monde illustrates what is either a pre-human or post-apocalyptic world, encouraging us as viewers to cherish the world we are lucky enough to live in—a sentiment all the more powerful today.

    • Provenance

      Galerie René Drouin, Paris
      Collection Claude Hersaint, Paris
      Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris
      Private Collection (acquired from the above)
      Christie's, New York, May 11, 2004, lot 63
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Cercle Volney, Exposition de peinture, dessins et divers travaux exécutés de 1942 a 1954 par Jean Dubuffet, March 17–April 17, 1954, no. 87, n.p.
      Paris, Salle de la Société d’Horticulture de France, Tableaux peints a Paris entre le 11 avril (retour de New York) et le 7 septembre 1952/Présentation a Matisse et Tapié a la Salle de Agriculteurs, September 1952, no. 5

    • Literature

      "Les Arts: L'exposition Jean Dubuffet," La Nouvelle Revue Française, no. 17, May 1954, p. 916
      James Fitzsimmons, Jean Dubuffet, bréve introduction á son oeuvre, Brussels, 1958, no. 29, pp. 32, 33, 34, 72 (illustrated, p. 32)
      Giuseppe Raimondi, "L'arte: il laboro di Jean Dubuffet," Comunità, no. 67, Milan, February 1959, p. 75 (illustrated)
      Françoise Choay, "Dubuffet: voyeur et voyant," La Galerie des arts, no. 2, Paris, December 1962, p. 7
      Françoise Choay, "50 artistes peintures sculpteurs graveurs présentés par 22 critiques en 1964," Dictionnaire des artistes contemporains, Paris, 1964, pp. 52, 147 (illustrated, p. 52)
      La galerie des Arts, 2, Paris, 1962, p. 7 (illustrated)
      "Jean Dubuffet," Les Mures, Paris, 1971, n.p. (illustrated)
      Max Loreau, ed., Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, fascicule VII: Tables paysagées, paysages du mental, pierres philosophiques, Switzerland, 1967, no. 234, pp. 155, 206 (illustrated, p. 155)
      Alexandre Vialatte, Jean Dubuffet et le Grand Magma, Paris, 1988, pp. 39, 43, 137 (illustrated, p. 43)
      Patrice Cotensin and Sophie Webel, eds., Jean Dubuffet James Fitzsimmons, Correspondence 1956–1964, Paris, 2006, p. 117

Property from a Notable Private Collector


La liquidité du monde

signed and dated "J. Dubuffet 52" upper and lower left; signed, titled and dated "La liquidité du monde J. Dubuffet 1952" on the reverse
oil and mixed media on plywood on Masonite
51 1/4 x 63 3/4 in. (130.2 x 161.9 cm)
Painted in August 1952.

Full Cataloguing

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $444,500

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan

Specialist, Head of Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023