In Personnage Dubuffet has created his own take on ‘art brut’ with a primitive individual who completely eschews Western ideals of beauty. This piece shows the constant reworking of a fluid black line and, with the use of a monochromatic background that lacks any shadowing, recalls early primitive art. The spontaneity of line also hints at the artist’s interest in free expression which was so prevalent in ‘art brut’ and his life-long interest in graffiti as a ‘mass-appeal’ art form.
Jean Dubuffet’s visual language was first influenced in 1923 by the illustrated plates of German psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn’s book, Bildnerei der Geisteskranken [“Artistry of the Mentally Ill”]. Dubuffet’s interest in the art of the insane and of the self-taught, which was to become known as ‘art brut’, led him to emulate this directly expressive and untutored style in his own work. His paintings from the early forties in brightly coloured oils were soon followed by works in which he employed such unorthodox materials as cement, plaster, tar, and asphalt-scraped, carved and cut and drawn upon with a rudimentary, spontaneous line. He was also inspired by the ethnographic objects of primitive cultures in Africa and Oceania.