Jean Dubuffet (b. 1901, Le Havre, France; d. 1985, Paris, France) is widely recognized as the most innovative artist in post-war France. A pioneer of outsider art, or ‘art brut’, Dubuffet sought to redefine aesthetic norms by drawing on the art of children, iconoclasts and the insane. In his view, because mainstream culture would systematically appropriate and sterilise artistic developments, authentic art could only be created spontaneously, without concern for any audience. On the premise that art takes its language from the materials used, Dubuffet scratched, kneaded and painted on resin, before applying plaster, sand, tar and other elements with a palette knife. In later years, he created monumental sculptures, installations and collages.
Dubuffet moved to Paris in 1918 where he briefly studied art at the Académie Julian. In 1925, he began working in the wine trade but painted periodically until 1942, after which he devoted himself exclusively to painting. In 1948 he created the Compagnie de l’Art Brut, along with the André Breton and the critic Michel Tapié. His first solo exhibition was in 1944 at the Gallery René Drouin in Paris. His first solo exhibition in New York was held at the Pierre Matisse Gallery (1947). During his lifetime, major exhibitions of his work included: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (1960–61), Museum of Modern Art, New York (1962), Tate Gallery, London (1966), Guggenheim Museum, New York (1973) and Akademie der Künst, Berlin (1980).
Since his death in 1985, Dubuffet’s work has continued to be exhibited worldwide. Major retrospectives have been held at Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris (1991), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC (1993), Saarland Museum, Saarbrücken, Germany (1999) and a centenary exhibition at the Centre Georges-Pompidou in Paris (2001).