Jean Dubuffet

Spinning Round


Not on display

Jean Dubuffet 1901–1985
Original title
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 975 × 1304 mm
frame: 1021 × 1348 × 50 mm
Presented by Mrs Cynthia Fraser in memory of her husband, W. Lionel Fraser 1965

Display caption

This work belongs to a series called ‘Paris Circus’, which reflect the excitement of Dubuffet’s return to the city after living in the countryside for seven years. In the intervening period, he had attempted to remove all human presence, including his own, from his work. The new Paris pictures, by contrast, were teeming with humanity. Dubuffet wrote: ‘The presence in them of the painter now is constant, even exaggerated. They are full of personages, and this time their role is played with spirit'.

Gallery label, April 2004

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Catalogue entry

Jean Dubuffet born 1901 [- 1985]

T00801 Vire-Volte (Spinning Round) 1961

Inscribed 'J. Dubuffet | 61' b. centre and 'Vire Volte | J. Dubuffet | mai 61' on the back; the shop fronts in the background are inscribed 'AU DÉSASTRE | COLIFICHETS', 'VIREVOLTE | ENTRÉE' etc. and the manhole covers in the foreground 'GAZ DE PARIS'
Oil on canvas, 38 1/4 x 51 1/4 (97 x 130)
Presented in 1965 by Mrs Cynthia Fraser in memory of her husband W. Lionel Fraser, a Trustee of the Tate Gallery 1958-65
Prov: With Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris (purchased from the artist); with Robert Fraser Gallery, London; W. Lionel Fraser, London; Mrs Cynthia Fraser, London
Exh: Dubuffet: Paris Circus, Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris, June-July 1962 (4); Jean Dubuffet: Paintings 1961, Robert Fraser Gallery, London, May-June 1964 (3, repr.); Jean Dubuffet: Paintings, Tate Gallery, April-May 1966 (110, repr.); Jean Dubuffet, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, June-August 1966 (101, repr.)
Lit: Peter Selz, The Work of Jean Dubuffet (New York 1962), p.165; Renato Barilli, Dubuffet Matériologue (Bologna 1963), p.65; Max Loreau, Catalogue des Travaux de Jean Dubuffet XIX: Paris Circus (Paris 1965), No.53, p.40, repr. p.41
Repr: Official Guide to the Tate Gallery (London 1970), p.36

Renato Barilli relates that the series of 'Paris Circus' pictures of which this forms part 'was produced by the shock which the artist felt when faced with his own work, a need to go back to certain subjects, to take them up again, it was also caused by boredom with Vence and a nostalgia for Paris which made him devote himself to a grotesque apotheosis of the streets of the city'. Dubuffet had been living since 1954 in the countryside, first at Durtol and then from 1955 in Vence. His initial enthusiasm for the fields and nature had gradually died away, and been replaced by a profound longing for Paris. Then in February 1961 he began his first long stay in the capital for seven years. Filled with amazement, he hardly knew where to look. The shops, the pavements, the cars, the façades, the people presented him with a spectacle full of enchantment.

Dubuffet himself has stated in a letter of 21 December 1961 to Peter Selz that the principal thing about his paintings of 1961 is that 'they are in complete contrast to those of the Texturology and Materiology series that I did previously. They are in every way the opposite. I believe more and more that my paintings of the previous years avoided in subject and execution specific human motivations. To paint the earth the painter tended to become the earth and to cease to be man - that is, to be painter. In reaction against this absenteeist tendency my paintings of this year put into play in all respects a very insistent intervention. The presence in them of the painter now is constant, even exaggerated. They are full of personages, and this time their role is played with spirit'.

The series was begun in Paris in late February 1961, but this picture was painted on 31 May, about a fortnight after his return to Vence.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.183-4, reproduced p.183

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