Dec 16, 2014

Secret of the Substratum

The Phenomena: "Earth and Water"

Secret of the Substratum


Jean Dubuffet

(French, 1901–1985)


Sheet: 45 x 64 cm (17 11/16 x 25 3/16 in.)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph F. Colin, New York 1970.176

Catalogue raisonné: Webel 427



Jean Dubuffet (French, 1901-1985) became a leading figure in European art during the 1950s. Rejecting traditional academic, classical ideals of beauty, he was inspired by urban graffiti, prehistoric cave paintings, children's draw-ings, the art of the untrained and of tribal peoples, and of the mentally ill. Dubuffet wanted a spontaneous, direct art. He stressed invention and imagination, and created a bold and gritty style he called l'Art Brut (Brutal Art).
Although Dubuffet had made lithographs since 1944, he spent the years from 1958 to 1962 deeply involved with the medium, producing a monumental series of 324 prints called Les Phénomènes (The Phenomena). He planned a systematic study of the effects he could achieve with a fixed number of lithographic plates successively printed in different colors. He varied the choice and number of plates, as well as the colors and the orientation and order in which they were printed. To facilitate the interchange-ability and superimposition of the plates, the imagery had to be an indeterminate, all-over pattern or texture, which he obtained from interesting surfaces like walls, stones, an old suitcase, and even a friend's bare back. The plates were first printed in black, but then Dubuffet improvised-printing them in varied color combinations. The titles of the prints reflect resemblances to substances from the realms of geography, geology, physics, biochemistry, and other natural phenomena. Dubuffet's intensive experimen-tation, independent spirit, and originality pushed lithography in new, exciting directions.

See also
PR - Lithograph
Type of artwork: 

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