Jean Dubuffet - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips

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  • First traveling to Northern Africa in the late 1940s, Jean Dubuffet was continually inspired by the nature and culture of the landscape. Using a distinctly Art Brut, or “raw art,” style, Dubuffet’s Le fantasque, 1952, is rendered with the same naturalistic tones and textures reminiscent of the land. Utilizing a color palette consisting of warm browns and taupes, Dubuffet possesses an overwhelming tactile curiosity for the imperfect rigidness of his brushstrokes and thick layering of paint. The rich, brown backdrop gives the illusion that the medium is almost set in stone or some form of earthy material, rather than simply paint on canvas. The subject in the center seems ambiguous, lacking any sharp edges as if a ghost-like illusion, reminiscent of a dream. Perhaps this figure was a passerby in the artist’s life, as he claimed to find a sense of closeness and camaraderie towards strangers on the street over members of high society. What is particularly striking and emblematic of the artist’s hand in Le fantasque, however, is the way in which Dubuffet uses opposing strokes to create a sense of disarray and movement.

    “A crack in the ground, sparkling gravel, a tuft of grass, some crushed debris offer equally worthy subjects for your applause and admiration.”
    —Jean Dubuffet

    Dubuffet's work emerged from the rubble of World War II, at a time when many artists were exploring with new forms of expression and rejecting traditional academic styles, particularly those set on defining classical beauty. Though influenced by the spontaneous, gestural mark-making of the Abstract Expressionists, Dubuffet's approach to art was highly individualistic, as he continued to create works that were free from the constraints of conventional aesthetics and oftentimes involved a tactile quality. His interest in the primitive and naïve – both synonymous with the style of Art Brut – reflected his desire to connect with the natural world, capturing the raw, unfiltered expressions, or allusions of everyday people. Directly translating to “the whimsical,” with its bold and chaotic brushstrokes of thick paint, Dubuffet’s Le fantasque embodies the artist’s fascination and belief that art should reflect the instinctual impulses that drive us as individuals and bring us closer to the natural world, sourcing subject and materials from the places in which we all originate.

    • Provenance

      Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
      Christian Fayt Art Gallery, Knokke-Heist
      Barbara Annis Fine Art, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Cercle Volney, Peintures, dessins et divers travaux exécutés de 1942 a 1954 par Jean Dubuffet, March 17–April 17, 1954, no. 102, n.p.
      Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Jean Dubuffet 1942-1960, December 16, 1960–February 25, 1961, no. 91, p. 220
      Dallas Museum of Fine Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Jean Dubuffet: Retrospective, March 16–June 1966, no. 23, pp. 18, 51 (illustrated, p. 18)
      The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, The Common Man: Works by Jean Dubuffet, December 19, 1969–January 31, 1970, no. 22, p. 35 (illustrated)
      Berlin, Akademie der Künste; Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst; Cologne, Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle, Dubuffet Retrospektive, September 7, 1980–March 29, 1981, no. 98, pp. 106, 328 (illustrated, pp. 106, 328)

    • Literature

      Lorenza Trucchi, Jean Dubuffet, Rome, 1965, no. 118, p. 157 (illustrated)
      Max Loreau, Catalogue des Travaux de Jean Dubuffet, fascicule VII: Tables paysagées, paysages du mental, pierres philosophiques, Switzerland, 1967, no. 129, pp. 85, 204 (illustrated, p. 85)
      Max Loreau, Jean Dubuffet délits déportements lieux de haut jeu, Switzerland, 1971, pp. 146, 594 (illustrated, p. 146)

Property from a Notable Private Collection


Le fantasque

signed and dated "J. Dubuffet 52" lower right; signed, titled, inscribed and dated "Le Fantasque J. Dubuffet Janvier 52 New York" on the reverse
oil on panel
30 x 24 in. (76.2 x 61 cm)
Painted in January 1952.

Full Cataloguing

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $508,000

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