Tapié grand-duc (Duke Tapié), 1946

This is not a classical portrait – neither in its manner of execution nor in its desire to create an exact likeness of a human being. To be sure, by only a slight stretch of the imagination we can recognize the physical features of the art critic and theorist Michael Tapié. Nevertheless, Dubuffet – who is considered an exponent of “Art Informel”, was not out to paint a naturalistic image of his friend. Dubuffet availed himself of an unusual technique to achieve his special form of depiction. He began by priming the canvas with a pulp consisting of plaster and oil paint. This gave the work a surface reminiscent of the plasticity of a crudely roughcast wall. He then scratched the face into this coarse painting ground with a few lines. Memories are evoked of scribbles and scrawls on walls, of graffiti, of children’s drawings or art by the mentally ill. Dubuffet referred to such forms of expression as “Art Brut”. What appealed to him was their primordial, unfiltered, anti-intellectual qualities and the playful pleasure taken in their production.

© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018

Oil on plaster on canvas
83 × 67.5 cm
Inv. No. SG 1252

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