Born into a wealthy family of wine merchants in Le Havre, Dubuffet left home at seventeen to study art at the Académie Julian in Paris. Disillusioned with his studies he returned home to take over his father’s wine business. After twenty years in unsuccessful careers, he eventually returned to painting.
Dubuffet is regarded as one of the pioneers of the Art Brut (‘raw art’ or ‘outsider art’) movement, resisting the accepted aesthetic in favour of a more authentic approach. Choosing to depict everyday subjects in a bold and primitive style, he continued to experiment with crude and unusual materials. Mixing oil paint with tar or straw, the surfaces of these particular works are heavily textured. He developed his famous Hourloupe style in 1962, inspired by a doodle he made whilst on the telephone. The fluidity of the line with its pockets of colour reminded him of the way things appeared in the mind. This gap between physical and mental representation led him to create several large sculptures in which people could wander around, stay and meditate.
He continued to paint and draw until his death in Paris in 1985.