Jean Dubuffet. Accumulation with Bread. 1968. Vinyl on epoxy and fiberglass, in nine parts, 38 1/4 x 47 1/4 x 41 3/8" (97.2 x 120 x 105.1 cm). Gift of Nina and Gordon Bunshaft. © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

“Look at what lies at your feet!”

Jean Dubuffet

Jean Dubuffet’s work is marked by a rebellious attitude toward prevailing notions of high culture, beauty, and good taste. He began making art in earnest at age 41, after a stint in the army and a successful career as a wine merchant. The next four decades were tremendously prolific: he wrote poetry and theoretical texts, played jazz, experimented widely with art-making materials and techniques, and worked in many mediums, including painting, drawing, printmaking, large-scale outdoor sculpture, and what he called “animated painting”—works bridging painting, sculpture, dance, and theater, and featuring live performers.

Though he was an academically trained painter from a bourgeois family, Dubuffet maintained what he called in a 1951 lecture an “anticultural position.”1 He advocated for “instinct, passion, mood, violence, madness”2 rather than analysis and reason, as well as closer proximity to nature and natural forms and the discarding of traditional notions of beauty. “Look at what lies at your feet!” he once said. “A crack in the ground, sparkling gravel, a tuft of grass, some crushed debris offer equally worthy subjects for your applause and admiration.”3 Such values were embodied in what Dubuffet termed art brut (or “raw art”), produced on the margins by children, outsider and folk artists, and the mentally ill. His own collection of this work, formed in part with the help of the Surrealist Andre Breton and writer Jean Paulhan, was donated to the city of Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1971.

In the studio, Dubuffet was a relentless innovator, experimenting with unorthodox tools and materials by mixing gravel into his paints; making impressions from foliage, orange peels, and tapioca; or covering canvases with tin foil, as in Soul of the Underground. He worked fluidly between mediums, with his trials in painting informing his radical work in the print shop, where he attacked lithographic stones with sandpaper, flaming rags, and chemicals. He carefully inked webs onto paper and then translated them into allover horizon-less compositions on canvas, creating views that suggest both the microscopic and the celestial. His printmaking reached its zenith with Phenomena, a group of 362 lithographs parsed into 24 albums, which evoke myriad natural states, textures, and surfaces.

Sarah Suzuki, Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, 2016

  1. Jean Dubuffet, “Anticultural Positions” (lecture, The Arts Club of Chicago, 1951), reprinted in J. Dubuffet (New York: World House Gallery, 1960), 192.

  2. Jean Dubuffet, “Anticultural Positions” (lecture, The Arts Club of Chicago, 1951), reprinted in J. Dubuffet (New York: World House Gallery, 1960), 192.

  3. Jean Dubuffet, "Empreintes," in Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics, ed. Herschel B. Chipp (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968), 611.

Wikipedia entry
Jean Philippe Arthur Dubuffet (31 July 1901 – 12 May 1985) was a French painter and sculptor of the Ecole de Paris (School of Paris). His idealistic approach to aesthetics embraced so-called "low art" and eschewed traditional standards of beauty in favor of what he believed to be a more authentic and humanistic approach to image-making. He is perhaps best known for founding the art movement art brut, and for the collection of works—Collection de l'art brut—that this movement spawned. Dubuffet enjoyed a prolific art career, both in France and in America, and was featured in many exhibitions throughout his lifetime.
Information from Wikipedia, made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Getty record
Dubuffet began his career as a wine merchant, and did not devote himself completely to painting until the age of 41. He valued, collected, and emulated 'art brut,' a term he coined to describe work that is non-conformist, unprocessed, spontaneous, and insulated from all social and cultural influences. He was prolific and moved through figurative and abstract phases, arriving in 1962 at an invented style that he called Hourloupe, based on graphic black-lined cells painted in a restricted palette of mostly red, blue, and white. These were first paintings and drawings, but soon became sculptural, at times becoming monumental or environmental.
Artist, Author, Manufacturer, Writer, Lithographer, Musician, Collector, Genre Artist, Graphic Artist, Painter, Sculptor
Jean Dubuffet, Jean-Philippe-Arthur Dubuffet, Jandu Bufe, Louis-Léon Forget
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License


747 works online



  • Grace Wales Bonner: Dream in the Rhythm Exhibition catalogue, Hardcover, 184 pages
  • MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art Flexibound, 408 pages
  • MoMA Now: Highlights from The Museum of Modern Art—Ninetieth Anniversary Edition Hardcover, 424 pages
  • Dubuffet Prints from The Museum of Modern Art Exhibition catalogue, Paperback, pages
  • Jean Dubuffet: Edifices Exhibition catalogue, Paperback, pages
  • Jean Dubuffet: Drawings Exhibition catalogue, Paperback, pages
  • The Work of Jean Dubuffet Exhibition catalogue, Clothbound, pages
  • The Work of Jean Dubuffet Exhibition catalogue, Paperback, pages

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