Jean Dubuffet

Gold and Shadow [from ‘Land Registry’]

1958, published 1960

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Jean Dubuffet 1901–1985
Original title
Or et ombre [from 'Cadastre']
Lithograph on paper
Image: 443 × 386 mm
Purchased 1985

Catalogue entry

Jean Dubuffet 1901-1985

P77118 Gold and Shadow 1958, pub. 1960 from ‘Cadastre' 1960

Lithograph 443 x 386 (17 7/16 x 15 3/10) on Vélin d'Arches paper 635 x 447 (25 x 17 5/8); watermark ‘[...]HES'; printer unknown; published by the artist; artist's proof aside from the edition of 23
Inscribed ‘J. Dubuffet 58' and ‘à Serge Lozingot' below image b.r., ‘Or et ombre' below image bottom centre and ‘épreuve d'artiste' below image b.l.
Purchased at Phillips (Grant-in-Aid) 1985
Lit: Noël Arnaud, Jean Dubuffet Grafik, exh. cat., Silkeborg Museum 1961, p.238; Jean Dubuffet, ‘Notes sur les lithographies par reports d'assemblages et sur la suite des Phénomènes', L'homme du commun à l'ouvrage, Paris 1973, pp.265-86
Repr: [Max Loreau (ed.)], Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, XVI, Paris 1964, p.194 fig.322 as ‘Or et ombre'

P77118 is an artist's proof of a print that was published in an album entitled ‘Cadastre'. This word means ‘land registry' and is used in particular as an administrative term for a plan of land-holdings in a commune. At the same time, the last syllable ‘astre', which means ‘star', suggests that the image might refer to not only the surface of the earth but also to constellations in the sky. The title, ‘Gold and Shadow', appears to refer to the effects of the pale and dark yellow and the pale and dark brown inks used in the print. The album's other prints also have titles which reflect the mood or setting evoked by their speckled, textured imagery: ‘Evening', ‘Secret', ‘Dreamy Area', ‘Games and Congress', ‘Silence', ‘Charm', ‘Fragile Installation of Shadow', ‘Austere Place' and ‘Worry'. ‘Cadastre' was itself the fifth of nine albums of colour lithographs published by the artist in the period from January 1959 to April 1962. The other titles of this series are ‘Areas and Places', ‘Fields of Silence'. ‘The Surveyor', ‘Geography', ‘Banalities', ‘Sights', ‘Tabulae Rasae' and ‘The Anarchitect'. Together with thirteen black and white albums (and a further two made up of rejected prints), these volumes made up the group of print albums known as ‘The Phenomena'.

In 1957 Dubuffet began work on a series of paintings which he described as a celebration of the soil. These ‘Topographies' took as their source the most commonplace areas of ground seen from above. In 1959 Dubuffet wrote in explanation of these paintings, ‘A roadway free of any uneveness or peculiarity, a dirty floor, a bare and dusty terrain, that no one would ever dream of looking at - at least deliberately - (and much less painting) - are reaches of intoxication and jubilation for me' (quoted in Mildred Glimcher and Jean Dubuffet, Jean Dubuffet: Towards an Alternative Reality, New York 1987, p.167). Beyond his attachment to the banality of the subject, the artist was drawn to this theme because it nullified the traditional antimonies between object and space, form and formlessness:

What seduced me right from the start was the idea of composing pictures by the simple means of juxtaposition of textures in which no delimited object or contour appears and which recreates the impression one gets from contemplating the soil of a vast expanse that can be extended indefinitely (ibid., p.12).

From the non-figurative, textural qualities of works from this series Dubuffet developed in 1958 a second related series of paintings known as ‘Texturologies'. Through a process of spattering and dripping, paintings such as ‘The Exemplary Life of the Soil (Texturology LXIII)', 1958 (T00868, repr. Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art, 1981, p.182) had a fine, all-over speckled texture of the sort which featured in the lithographs of ‘The Phenomena' produced in the same period.

In a long and detailed text written in January 1962 Dubuffet recorded the genesis of the lithographic series. He explained that it had been a longstanding desire of his to attempt to dissect and analyse certain pictorial effects, divorced from any particular representation. For this purpose he envisaged in 1958 making impressions of indeterminate textures on a few hundred lithographic stones or zinc sheets. These stones would be the ‘primordial matrices' with which Dubuffet could produce endlessly varied prints simply by methodically changing the order and number (generally only three or four for any one print) of the stones used in the printing process. He began to make this collection of matrix plates using the two printing studios of Mourlot and Desjobert and, briefly, in his own studios in Vence and Paris. At this stage Dubuffet ambitiously envisaged three projects: first, a collection of prints of the base plates; secondly, the creation of albums of colour prints made by the superposition of several plates; finally, the production of prints made from torn-up pieces of coloured prints, assembled and transfered onto lithographic stones (for further information on this technique see entry on P77031). At first, the prints were simply numbered, but it was found easier to remember them by individual names which were given either by the operators of the presses or by the artist.

When a sufficient number of prints had been made to gain an overview of the project, Dubuffet's attitude changed. He had already begun to see the prints of base images as beautiful in themselves, rather than simply as the tools of an artistic experiment, and had become acutely aware of the logistical difficulties of making, storing and identifying all the prints originally envisaged. Looking through the albums of prints prepared by the printers for ease of reference he came to feel that they had ‘the character of a collection of topographical accounts, of a register of specimens of all elementary textures, of an atlas of phenomena' (Dubuffet 1973, p.278). From then on Dubuffet viewed the lithographs not simply as exercises in analysis of colour and texture in themselves but as records of types of colours and textures found in physical phenomena. Thereafter, he grouped his prints according to their separate themes and no longer chronologically. Uninteresting prints were discarded and there was no further attempt to experiment with all possible combinations of stones and colours.

The series of colour lithographs, begun in 1958, was not finished till 1962. In some cases, as in P77118 which was first printed in August 1958, the works were not editioned till some time later. In October 1958 Dubuffet closed down his own press in Vence, and returned to Paris. He then hired in January 1959 a young printer named Serge Lozingot to supervise the production of the albums of the ‘Phenomena' series. It was perhaps in gratitude for his services that Dubuffet dedicated P77118 to him.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.324-6

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