Jean Dubuffet

Man in a Cap


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Not on display

Jean Dubuffet 1901–1985
Original title
L'Homme à la casquette
Lithograph on paper
Image: 503 × 150 mm
Purchased 1983

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

P07781 Man in a Cap 1953

Lithograph 19 3/4 × 5 7/8 (503 × 150) on Velin Arches 23 3/4 × 12 3/4 (655 × 324), printed by Henri Deschamps at Mourlot Frères, Paris
Inscribed ‘J Dubuffet '53’ b.r. and ‘L'Homme à la Casquette’ and ‘10/20’
Purchased at Sotheby's (Grant-in-Aid) 1983
Repr: Catalogue des Travaux de Jean Dubuffet, ix, Paris, 1968, no.48

This is one of a series of lithographs which Dubuffet made in the last months of 1953. At this time he was also making collages of impressions in ink on lithographic paper which he called ‘assemblages d'empreintes’. He executed 27 lithographs, 13 in colour and 14 in black and white, of which P07781 is one, at the Atelier Desjobert and at Mourlot Frères. In nearly all cases the editions were limited to either 10 or 20 impressions. In his ‘Memoir on the Development of my Works’ published in the catalogue of his retrospective exhibition held in Paris (Jean Dubuffet 1942–1960, exhibition catalogue, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, December 1960–February 1961, p.145) Dubuffet records that at this time he was making lithographs which

resulted from impressions [empreintes] made on transfer paper with greasy ink. Then I cut some pieces from these sheets, assembled them with glue, and finally the whole was transferred onto the stone. For those which were printed in colour I used many impressions [empreintes] which were printed one above the other in various tones, according to the results of long sessions of tests that I held at the printer's, where a spirit of improvisation reigned.

P07781 is printed in black and, although it appears to have been pulled from a heavily inked stone, it seems not to have been made in the manner described above but rather to have been drawn more conventionally. Nevertheless the ink has a textured appearance.

During this period Dubuffet made a number of images of people wearing caps or hats. P07781 is unusual among other lithographs of 1953 in that the figure is depicted in a static pose and the torso is elongated. In this latter respect it resembles a sculpture in sponge entitled ‘The Duke’ 1954 (repr. Jean Dubuffet 1942–1960, exhibition catalogue, pl.176). The depiction of the figure is very flat which was consistent with Dubuffet's approach to painting at the time. As he wrote in his ‘Notes pour les Fins-Lettrés’ of 1945 (published in 1946 in Prospectus);

The objective of a painting is to animate a surface which is by definition two-dimensional and without depth. One does not enrich it in seeking effects of relief or trompe-l'oeil through shading; one denatures and adulterates it...Let us seek instead ingenious ways to flatten objects on the surface; and let the surface speak its own language and not an artificial language of three dimensional space which is not proper to it...I feel the need to leave the surface visibly flat. My eyes like to rest on a surface which is very flat, particularly a rectangular surface. The objects represented will be transformed into pancakes, as though flattened by a pressing iron (Hubert Damisch (ed.), Jean Dubuffet, Prospectus et Tous Ecrits Suivants, Paris, 1967, 1, p.74).

Mourlot Frères do not have records regarding the publisher of P07781 but think it likely that it was published by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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