Painting in danger: Jean dubuffet's hautes pâtes

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Jean Dubuffet made his dramatic breakthrough into the art world in the spring of 1946 with what would become his signature innovation, the hautes pâtes (thick or high pastes). Experimenting with unorthodox materials and techniques, he loaded his canvases with materials so heavy and unstable that even before their public debut in the exhibition Mirobolus, Macadam et Cie., his unwieldy pastes began cracking, crumbling, and melting off the canvas and onto the floor. According to Dubuffet's apologists, he welcomed these 'modifications', delighting in mutable, mutant materials that succumbed to the forces of gravity and entropy. Revisiting the story of Dubuffet's meltdowns, this article highlights the uneasy double bind Dubuffet found himself in at the beginning of his career, as his theoretical interest in ephemerality gave way to his clients' and dealers' well-founded practical concerns over the longevity and material durability of his work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
JournalRIHA Journal
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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