Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Schulhof Collection
Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)

La Congratule

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
La Congratule
signed with initials and dated 'J.D. 62' (lower right)
gouache on paper
19 5/8 x 26¼ in. (49.8 x 66.7 cm.)
Painted in 1962.
Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris
Pace Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
M. Loreau, Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet: fascicule XIX: Paris Circus, Paris, 1965, p. 197, no. 434 (illustrated).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Lot Essay

The Schulhof Collection

The Schulhof name is one that has resonated in the international art community for over sixty years and has come to signify the passion and exceptional connoisseurship of two of the greatest collectors of their time, Hannelore and Rudolph Schulhof. Over the span of more than half a century the couple created an unrivalled collection of paintings, sculpture and works on paper that captured not only the momentous changes that were happening within the art world but also demonstrated their personal commitment to supporting both the careers of artists and also the museum community. The result is a remarkable collection which not only documents the history of post-war art but has also set the standard for contemporary connoisseurship and collecting.

The pair met in Vienna when Europe was on the brink of World War II and fled the Nazi occupation to marry in Brussels in 1940. Hannelore and her family, the Bucks, were able to obtain travel on the Rex, the last ship out of Europe in 1940, and Rudolph was also fortunate enough to obtain a visa into the United States through Canada. Once in New York, Rudolph joined the Buck family business of greeting cards and art reproductions. They had been able to escape Europe with much of the film and plates necessary for the work and were soon able to create a successful business in New York. The Schulhofs established their home in Kings Point, Long Island, the area that would remain their home for the rest of their lives. The business expanded and Rudolph opened an office in Milan in the early 1950s, which meant travel back and forth to Europe and greater exposure to the changing art scenes around the globe.

Hannelore and Rudolph shared a love of art, and soon after moving to Kings Point they met several other young collectors and were encouraged to start a collection of their own. A pivotal moment in shaping their philosophy occurred when they met famed art dealer Justin Thannhauser. The couple had their heart set on a work by French Expressionist painter Georges Rouault, but the price was too high. Thannhauser encouraged them to "Look at the art of your own time," advice that resonated and shaped the vision of their collection going forward. Their son, Mickey Schulhof, summed up their collecting strategy, "If you're going to buy art, buy it from artists you know. You get to understand a body of work, not just a single piece, and you get to know someone interestingWhen they chose a work, they knew all of the artist's work at the time; they knew where the piece fit in" (M. Schulhof, quoted by N. Fox Weber, "Astute and Refined: The Schulhof's Discerning Vision," Hannelore B. and Rudolph B. Schulhof Collection, New York, 2011, p. 17). The couple also made sure that they acted as a team. "It was a real partnership" Hannelore once said, "If we woke up and felt we couldn't live without a work we'd seen, and if we both agreed, then we knew we had to buy it. Fortunately, Mr. Schulhof and I had similar tastes. Even if we made separate visits to an exhibit, we always chose the same sculpture or painting. We loved art" (H. Schulhof, interviewed by Lisa Jacobs, ibid, 2011, p. 38).
The Schulhofs spent a great deal of time exploring galleries in New York and Milan and soon befriended many artists including Afro, Alberto Burri and Giuseppe Santomaso. Both Hannelore and Rudolph believed firmly that it was more satisfying to acquire works from artists they knew, because a relationship with the artist helped place every work within a greater context. If they could not meet or buy directly from the artists, they put their faith in the gallerists who knew their artists most closely. Over time, Hannelore and Rudolph grew to count many important artists as friends and acquaintances. Calder, Marini and Miró were amongst the more established artists in their circle. However, the pair was especially close with younger artists such as Pol Bury, Louise Nevelson and Eduardo Chillida. The couple even hosted Pol Bury's wedding at their Kings Point home in 1970.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Schulhof Collection is the fact that Hannelore and Rudolph kept every work they ever bought, speaking to the immense amount of thought they put into every acquisition and their intense personal connection with every object throughout their lives. Art was an integral part of their everyday lives, from the works that hung in their homes and the renowned sculpture on the grounds of their Kings Point home. Their outreach in the arts community was legendary with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, National Gallery in Washington and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem all benefitting from the Schulhof's generosity.

The Schulhof's commitment to their favorite art institutions is best demonstrated through their very generous donation of works from their collection to both the Israel Museum and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Hannelore and Rudolph had long-standing relationships with both intuitions and even a personal connection to Peggy Guggenheim herself. In 1954, the Schulhof's were visiting the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, when they were debating whether a particular painting was by the artist Santomaso, "Yes, it's a Santomaso" came voice whom Hannelore immediately recognized as belonging to the person she had seen in her private gondola going down the Grand Canal. Peggy Guggenheim was impressed by Hannelore's knowledge of Giuseppe Santomaso's work and this chance encounter began a friendship that would last for many years and eventually lead to one of the most generous gifts in the history of the Guggenheim Collection. Beginning in June 2013, works from the Schulhof Collection will have its own designated gallery in the Museum and grounds, and will form a significant part of the permanent collection, an extraordinary gift both to the Guggenheim and Venice. This act of extraordinary generosity speaks to the spirit on which the collection was founded. Hannelore once said, "Art is like a religion for me. It is what I believe in. It is what gives my life dimension beyond the material world we live in." This philosophy guided Hannelore and Rudolph to build what is widely regarded as one of the greatest collections of American modern art and still sets the standard for connoisseurship for contemporary collectors to this day.

Captured with Jean Dubuffet's riotous sense of color and energy, La Congratule is a celebration of the Parisian life that the artist experienced in the early 1960s on returning to the city after a number of years spent living in the relative seclusion of the Provençal countryside. His lively tableau of buildings, shops, and people captures the hustle and bustle and sheer joie de vivre of life in the French capital during one of the city's most tumultuous periods. Shopkeepers stand guard over their vibrant storefronts, surrounded by a barrage of gaudy signs that announces their wares and prices to the world. Into this scene Dubuffet introduces a cast of characters that populate the city streets--from store owners and people going about their daily routine to more the salacious figure of the 'truqueur' (a young man who inhabits the back streets in search of the repressed and the confused seeking an hour of 'companionship'). In Dubuffet's world everyone has an important role in making up the urban fabric of 1960s Paris. Interestingly, Dubuffet seems to shun the grand boulevards that artists such as Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro had earlier celebrated, focusing instead on a more modest working-class neighborhood.

Dubuffet, like many other artists and intellectuals of his generation, was dismayed by the state of humanity and the seemingly endless brutalities of the Second World War and looked to sources outside of the accepted canon of Western civilization for inspiration. After the war Dubuffet commenced his famous collection of paintings made by those from outside the confines of fine art training and conventional society. He had been fascinated by outsider art since 1923, when, on a visit to Switzerland, he received copy of Artistry of the Mentally Ill by Hanz Prinzhorn. Dubuffet brought elements of such unconventional aesthetic sensibilities into his own work--such as compulsive repetition, elements of chance, and a rejection of traditional perspective, scale and naturalistic color--all of which are already apparent in La Congratule.

Rather than appeal to the artistic elite and their wealthy patrons, Dubuffet sought a new audience for his art. He declared that he aimed not "at the mere gratification of a handful of specialists, but would much rather amuse and interest the man in the street when he comes home from work. It is the man in the street that I'm after, whom I feel closest to, with whom I want to make friends and enter into confidence and connivance, and he is the one I want to please and enchant by means of my work" (J. Dubuffet quoted in P. Selz, Dubuffet, New York, 1962, p. 10). In reality, however, Dubuffet's work was admired by avant-garde audiences above all. The smiling figures that populate the street seem to pay homage to his fellow man, while also taking a satirical punch. This was typical of Dubuffet's wit, as Peter Selz explained, "the artist has depicted this disparaged world with the mixture of cruelty and tenderness which is particular to his humor" (ibid., p. 14).

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