Jean Dubuffet

Peopling of the Lands


Not on display

Jean Dubuffet 1901–1985
Original title
Peuplement des terres
Lithograph on paper
Image: 645 × 500 mm
Purchased 1986

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

P77160 Peopling of the Lands 1953
Peuplement des terres

Lithograph 645 × 500 (25 3/8 × 9 3/4) on Johannot paper 765 × 558 (30 1/8 × 22); watermark ‘Johannot’; printed by Jean Celestin at Mourlot Frères, Paris and published by Mourlot Frères in an edition of 20; hors commerce proof aside from the edition of 20
Inscribed ‘J. Dubuffet | 53’ below image b.r., ‘Peuplement des Terres’ below image bottom centre and ‘épreuve HC’ below image b.l.
Purchased at Sotheby's (Grant-in-Aid) 1986
Lit: Noel Arnaud, ed., Jean Dubuffet: Grafik, Silkeborg Museum 1961, p.201 no.156; Max Loreau, Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, IX, Paris 1968, p.37, repr. no.39 (another impression); Max Loreau, Jean Dubuffet: Délits, déportments, lieux de haut jeu, [?Geneva/Paris] 1971, p.168, repr. (another impression); Sophie Webel, L'Oeuvre gravé et les livres illustrés par Jean Dubuffet, I, Paris 1991, p.106 no.369, repr. (col., another impression)

One of five ‘hors commerce’ examples of this work, ‘Peopling of the Lands’ has a globular and grainy patterning, which is suggestive of the different textures and layers found in soil. Embedded in this patterning are nine figures, identified by their pinkish colour and the brief outlining in dark grey of their facial features and limbs. The lithograph is printed with five colours: pale grey, dark grey, dark brown, sand and pink.

P77160 is one of the series of thirteen coloured and fourteen black-and-white lithographs made by Dubuffet in the period from October to December 1953 (see also following entry on P77184, and entries on P07781 in Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1982 – 4, 1986, p.386, repr., and on P77031 in Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1984 – 6, 1988, pp.323 – 4, repr.). In a statement made in 1960 Dubuffet recalled the ‘long trial sessions at the printers’ where a ‘spirit of improvisation became the order of the day’ when making the coloured prints (quoted in Loreau 1968, p.103). In some of the prints Dubuffet used unorthodox materials such as leaves, vegetables, salt, sugar, semolina and tapioca. Spread onto a surface, these would be inked, and an impression taken with a sheet of lithographic transfer paper. The image would then be transferred to the printing matrix in the normal manner. It seems likely that the artist used some type of granular material to achieve the mineral patterning in P77160. In this as in a number of other prints, Dubuffet animated the scene with figures drawn in a manner inspired by child art and the art of the mentally ill. Despite their apparent vitality and occasionally smiling faces, these figures appear locked into, or almost submerged in, the soil-like patterning that surrounds them. With its emphasis on a soil-like patterning, ‘Peopling of the Lands’ can be said to look forward to the series of ‘Topographies’ and ‘Texturologies’ paintings of 1957 and 1958, which Dubuffet described as celebrations of the soil, as well as the 1960 series of ‘Cadastre’ lithographs (see discussion of P77118 in Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1986 – 8, 1988, pp.324–6).

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

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