Jean Dubuffet - 20th Century to Now London Friday, June 30, 2023 | Phillips
  • “My desire is to make the site evoked by the picture something phantasmagoric; and that can be achieved only by jumbling together more or less veristic elements with interventions of arbitrary character aiming at unreality. I want my street to be crazy, my broad avenues, shops and buildings to join in a crazy dance, and that is why I deform their colours and their contours.”
    —Jean Dubuffet

    Full of all the energy and noisy vitality of a bustling city street, Jean Dubuffet’s Lieu de Ressouvenance is a paradigmatic example from the artist’s celebrated Partitions series – one of the interconnected cycles of work that occupied the artist during the ‘exceptionally productive’ last years of his life.i Featuring simplified figures that appear to float alone and in groups within flat, interlocking cells, the 92 works from the Partitions series combined the spontaneity of drawing with a concentrated sense of colour, generating an intoxicating joie de vivre in works that seem almost musical in their compositional arrangement.


    Following an extended period in the French countryside during which the human figure disappeared almost entirely from his canvases, with its flattened, vertiginous perspective, tangled, brightly coloured lines, and simply rendered yet highly animated figures, Lieu de Ressouvenance highlights the evolution of Dubuffet’s practice following his return to Paris in 1961 and the commencement of his Paris Circus series. As with the slightly later Hourloupe cycle, Dubuffet here retuned to one of his most consistent motifs with renewed force: that of the figure in urban space and the city as a site of psychological intensity.  

    “For myself, I aim for an art which would be an immediate connection with daily life, an art which would start from this daily life, and which would be a very sincere and very direct expression of our real life and our real moods.”
    —Jean Dubuffet

    Dubuffet’s earliest works had mined this territory extensively, their more muted palette allowing him to foreground questions of surface and texture as he approximated the city’s scumbled and densely overlaid qualities in paintings such as the 1945 Mur aux inscriptions, now held in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York. This early interest in spontaneous and scrawled, graffiti-like forms returned with force in these later works, energised by the introduction of bold, primary shades and chromatic contrasts so vividly employed here. Significantly, while these earlier works were anchored in the material reality of the city, by 1980 Dubuffet’s desire to ‘represent things as we think them rather than as we see them’ pushed the Partitions series into new psychological territory, their masterful interactions of figuration and abstraction, the frenetic city and the mind, creating complex, inner landscapes.


    Its title translated to  ‘place of remembrance’, Dubuffet’s Lieu de Ressouvenance deftly captures the essence of the artist’s work during this period, combining our perceptions of physical and psychological space, the frantic pace and simultaneity of the city acting as a rich metaphor for the workings of memory and the mind. As the artist explained in more detail, ‘One must not confuse what the eyes apprehend with what happens when the mind takes it in. In any single instant the eyes see only a side facing them, they converge on a small field. The mind totalises; it recapitulates all the fields; it makes them dance together […] Perhaps we live in a world invented by ourselves.’ii



    i Christine Burger, in Raphael Bouvier, Jean Dubuffet: Metamorphoses of Landscape, Basel, 2016, p. 194.

    ii Jean Dubuffet, quoted in Mildred Glimcher, ed., Jean Dubuffet: Towards an Alternative Reality, New York, 1987, p. 19.

    • Provenance

      The Pace Gallery, New York (acquired directly from the artist in 1982)
      Studio d'Arte Cannaviello, Milan (acquired from the above in 1982)
      Private Collection
      Christie's, London, 1 June 1999, lot 713
      Artesanterasmo, Milan
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Milan, Studio d'Arte Cannaviello, Jean Dubuffet: lavori recenti, 6 October - 20 November 1982

    • Literature

      Max Loreau ed., catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet: fascicule XXXIII: Sites aux figurines, Partitions, Paris, 1982, no. 204, p. 129 (illustrated, p. 79)



Lieu de ressouvenance

signed with the artist's initials and dated 'j.D. 80' lower right
acrylic on paper laid down on canvas
102.5 x 71.2 cm (40 3/8 x 28 in.)
Executed in October 1980.

Full Cataloguing

£350,000 - 450,000 ‡♠

Sold for £438,150

Contact Specialist

Leonor de Osma
Head of Sale, 20th Century to Now
T +44 20 7901 7912
M +44 7584 086 052

20th Century to Now

London Auction 30 June 2023