Jean Dubuffet (1901 – 1985) was a French painter and sculptor. His 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. Dubuffet enjoyed a prolific art career, both in France and in America, and was featured in many exhibitions throughout his lifetime.
Dubuffet coined the term art brut (meaning “raw art,” often referred to as ‘outsider art’) for art produced by non-professionals working outside aesthetic norms. Dubuffet felt that the simple life of the everyday human being contained more art and poetry than did academic art, or great painting. He found the latter to be isolating, mundane, and pretentious, and wrote in his Prospectus aux amateurs de tout genre that his aim was ‘not the mere gratification of a handful of specialists, but rather the man in the street when he comes home from work….it is the man in the street whom I feel closest to, with whom I want to make friends and enter into confidence, and he is the one I want to please and enchant by means of my work.’ To that end, Dubuffet began to search for an art form in which everyone could participate, and by which everyone could be entertained.
Dubuffet’s art primarily features the resourceful exploitation of unorthodox materials. Many of Dubuffet’s works are painted in oil paint using an impasto thickened by materials such as sand, tar and straw, giving the work an unusually textured surface. Dubuffet was the first artist to use this type of thickened paste, called bitumen. Additionally, in his earlier paintings, Dubuffet dismissed the concept of perspective in favor of a more direct, two-dimensional presentation of space. Dubuffet created the illusion of perspective by crudely overlapping objects within the picture plane. This method most directly contributed to the cramped effect of his works.