Jean Dubuffet

Inhabited Landscape


Not on display

Jean Dubuffet 1901–1985
Original title
Paysage habité
Lithograph on paper
Image: 217 × 335 mm
Purchased 1987

Display caption

The textures of these lithographs exemplify the technical inventiveness found in Jean Dubuffet’s work through which he tried to break the accepted boundaries of art. For some of his prints he used materials such as leaves, vegetables, salt, sugar and tapioca. These provide the basis for the dense surfaces that suggest the earth in which people and creatures swarm. Many of Dubuffet’s figures are quickly drawn and recall the urban graffiti that helped to inspire them.

Gallery label, March 2007

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Catalogue entry

P77185 Inhabited Landscape 1946
Paysage habité

Lithograph 217 × 335 (8 1/2 × 13 1/8) on BFK Rives paper, same size; printed by Marcel Durassier at Mourlot Frères, Paris; inset in Eugène Guillevic, Elégies, published by Editions Point du Jour, Paris 1946 in an edition of 306
Not inscribed
Purchased from Sam Fogg, Rare Books (Grant-in-Aid) 1987
Lit: Noel Arnaud, ed., Jean Dubuffet: Grafik, Silkeborg Museum 1961, repr. p.48 no.91; Max Loreau, Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, II, Paris 1966, p.88, repr. no.130 (another impression); Sophie Webel, L'Oeuvre gravé et les livres illustrés par Jean Dubuffet, I, Paris 1991, p.49 no.100, repr. in col. (another impression)

‘Inhabited Landscape’ is a largely black image, with orange, green, and occasionally, areas of white paper showing through where the lines of the image have been scraped away. On the extreme left there is a standing figure next to what appears to be a tree. To the right, drawn in a childlike manner, a figure can be seen in the upper window of a house. A path leads from the house to a rectangular garden or field to the right, in the middle of which stands a large figure. Directly behind is a small house and a number of trees. Two smaller figures can be seen at the extreme right.

P77185 was one of a group of lithographs made by Dubuffet in response to a commission to illustrate a book by Eugène Guillevic, Elégies. It was, however, the only one to be used. According to Webel, 306 impressions of P77185 were printed for Elègies, with two artist's proofs. A further seventy-five copies were printed, most of which were destroyed by the artist. However, in 1961 Arnaud listed the two three-colour prints, described by Webel as artist's proofs, as a separate, variant version of ‘Inhabited Landscape’ (no.92). The matrix with the main image of ‘Inhabited Landscape’ was used to print a further three impressions, inked in black alone, and described by both Webel and Arnaud as a separate work (repr. Webel 1991, p.49, no.99). Using the same horizontal format, the artist printed a run of sixty-seven impressions of a three-colour lithograph entitled ‘Personnage, arbre, maison’ (repr. ibid., p.50, no.103), most of which he again destroyed. The other two works prepared for Elégies had a similar format and subject, and were both titled ‘La Maison de campagne’. Two impressions were printed in black of one version, and only one impression was made of the three-coloured version (repr. ibid., p.50, nos. 101–2). One year previously Dubuffet had made a series of fifteen lithographs at Mourlot Frères to illustrate another volume of Guillevic's poetry, Les Murs, which was published in 1950 (see Jean Dubuffet: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 1973, p.246).

P77185 was made in April 1946, one month after Dubuffet had completed work on a lithograph for thirty copies of Michel Tapié's book Mirobolus, Macadam et Cie which dealt with Dubuffet's recent work. One version, ‘Suite de visages IV’ (repr. Webel 1991, p.47, no.94 in col.) has orange and green appearing through the lines scraped in the dominant black image in a manner that appears directly to anticipate the style of P 77185.

In its suburban or rural subject, ‘Inhabited Landscape’ is related to such earlier oil paintings as ‘Morning Mist in the Country’, 1945 (repr. Loreau 1966, p.51, no.73 in col., as ‘Brume du matin sur la campagne’). Here Dubuffet scraped lines into the paint surface to create the image of a house, with a figure in the upper window, a path, trees and two figures in the garden or field. A similar idyllic subject matter can be found in the series of gouaches dubbed by Max Loreau ‘Fairy Landscapes’, executed in July 1946 (repr. ibid., pp.109–16, nos.169–81). Such works sprang from Dubuffet's fascination with the mundane. In 1945 he said:

Personally I am not interested in what is exceptional ... I feed on the banal. The more banal a thing may be, the better it suits me, Luckily I do not consider myself exceptional in any way. In my paintings, I wish to recover the vision of an average and ordinary man, and it is without using techniques beyond the grasp of an ordinary man... that I have tried to constitute great celebrations. Celebrations (or feasts) are much more highly prized when, instead of setting themselves apart on foreign soil ... they occur in our everyday life. It is then that their virtue (to transform our daily life into a marvellous feast) is effective. I am speaking of celebrations of the mind; please may it be understood: celebrations of humours and deliriums. Art addresses itself to the mind, not to the eyes ... Similarly, the most simple and common spectacles appeal to me the most ... I am a tourist of a very special kind: what is pictureque disturbs me. It is where the picturesque is absent that I am in a state of constant amazement.

(quoted in Margit Rowell, ‘Jean Dubuffet: An Art on the Margins of Culture’, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York exh. cat., 1973, p.15)

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996

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