Controversial ‘Raw Artist’ Dubuffet Dies

Associated Press

Jean Dubuffet, one of France’s most controversial artists for more than four decades, died of heart failure, family sources said today. He was 83.

Dubuffet, who rebelled against laws, institutions and conventional art in the name of spirited invention, died Sunday afternoon. He was buried this morning in a private ceremony outside Paris, friends said. They declined to give further details.

Regarded as the most important French artist to come of age after World War II, Dubuffet was best-known for his art brut, which he translated as raw art--art left in a natural state.

It consisted of paintings, carvings, embroideries and other objects created by mental patients, which he collected to later weave into his own work.


Dubuffet was known for his anti-cultural attitude, which he expressed not only in art but also in books and pamphlets. He rarely went to art exhibitions and called the art of the past “injurious and debilitating.”

Dubuffet’s chief concern was the human condition, which he saw as chaotic and full of pain. For the artist who painted fearsome, hollow-eyed portraits of toothless spooks, man was basically barbaric.

Critics called his early works “ugly, but bewitching” because they evoked man’s “unconscious needs,” including art.

The self-taught Dubuffet never fully mastered the art of drawing, so he relied on other means to forge the grotesque images for which he became famous.


Besides paint, he worked with putty, mortar, steel, wool and mud which he would spread over the canvas with his fingers, scraping off the excess with his nails.