Page 15 - Studio International - May 1966
P. 15

Dubuffet and the myth of innocence

                                 by Robert Hughes
                                 Of all the painters who have emerged in France since the   look calmly at those personages composed of excrement
                                 war, only two have made a substantial impact on English   and butterfly wings, those graffiti and thick pastes and
                                 art. These were Nicholas de Stael and Jean Dubuffet.   crude little turnip-men. Dubuffet's thick paste prepared
                                 This Spring has given English audiences an exceptional   the way for Tapies, and his 'personages' have multiplied
                                 chance to assess Dubuffet's work, what with the INSTITUTE   all over la nouvelle figuration— just as the tradition of humeur
                                 OF CONTEMPORARY ART exhibition of seventy-six drawings,   noire should have prepared the French critics. His pictures
                                 covering the painter's development from 1935 to 1965,   now look like pictures. They have altogether lost their
                                 the big Dubuffet retrospective at THE TATE and the show   power to shock, and most of them are now drained of their
                                 of fifteen new canvases, images of kitchen equipment,   power even to surprise us. (Except that it's not the pic-
                                 books, beds, and taps, which Dubuffet has entitled Usten-  ture that leaks, but the audience that gets to know what
                                 siles Utopiques, at the ROBERT FRASER GALLERY.     to expect.) Some look ornamental to the point of sleek-
                                  Enough time—ten years, in fact—has passed since Du-  ness. To an extent which nobody would have predicted a
                                 buffet was first shown in England to make a cool re-  decade ago, they have entered the canon of belle peinture.
                                 assessment of him possible. The flurry and scandals have   Somehow or other, Dubuffet has managed to make even
                                 died. Impossible to think of any critic greeting Dubuffet   brutality look sweet, like a very good cook performing
                                 as Emily Genauer did when he showed in New York in   miracles with horsemeat.
         Grand Jazz Band
         (New Orleans) 1944      1948. Whatever he may have done, Dubuffet no longer   Dubuffet's art still awaits, and should receive, a long
         Oil on canvas           seems to be 'debasing and perverting the very nature of  analysis in English. This is not the place for it, but there
         44 7/8 x 57 1/4 in.     art.'                                             are certain points about Dubuffet's painting which should
         Courtesy Dubuffet
         Secretariat, Paris       Instead, he has expanded its vocabulary. We can now   be clarified before this analysis can take place. Some of
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