Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
2 More
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY OF A JAPANESE COLLECTOR
Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)

Le teint plombé

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
Le teint plombé
signed and dated 'J. Dubuffet 50' (center right)
oil and sand on Masonite
25 3/8 x 21 1/8 in. (64.5 x 53.7 cm.)
Executed in 1950.
The artist
Gabriel Giraud, Paris
Taijiro Tamura, Tokyo
Private collection, Tokyo, circa 1970s
By descent from the above to the present owner
S. Gotoh, Modern Panting, Tokyo, 1963, p. 13 (illustrated in color).
M. Loreau, ed., Catalogue des Travaux de Jean Dubuffet. Fascicule VI: Corps de dames, Lausanne, 1965, p. 27, no. 22 (illustrated).
Tokyo, Minami Gallery, Kandinsky, Klee, Léger, Tobey, Miró, Schneider, Fautrier, Fontana, Dubuffet, Wols, Soulages, June-August 1962.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
Sale room notice
Please note that this lot which was not marked with a circle and diamond symbol in the printed catalogue is now subject to a minimum price guarantee and has been financed by a third party. Please see the conditions of sale for further information.

Lot Essay

With her arms clasped across her chest and beaming a warm, expansive smile, Jean Dubuffet’s Le Teint Plombé (1950) faces the viewer with striking physical impact. She is a member of Dubuffet’s seminal series of Corps de dames (Bodies of women): bold, frontal corporeal presences that picture anatomy as terrain, uniting figure and ground in the totemic forms of monumental earth-mothers. Looking more like ancient fertility idols than classical nudes, these comical, radical figures were profoundly shocking to many contemporary viewers, and epitomize Dubuffet’s Art Brut mission to discard the traditional ideals of “sophisticated” Western art in favor of a direct “primitive” or “childlike” idiom. Taking a near-sculptural approach to the canvas, Le Teint Plombé sees Dubuffet’s new figurative language at its vivid height. The woman stands in golden silhouette against a dark, mineral ground of lustrous oil paint. Her body is formed of many layers of sandy, mauve, and terracotta hue, alive with texture and burnished with a tarry, molten glaze. Her outline and facial features—which punctuate a vast, moon-like face crowned with seraphic curls—are carved into the thick pigment. Her face is expressively mottled with an array of markings and tints, ranging from satin to gloss, from rippled corrugations to stony smoothness, and from violet to ochre to gleaming coal-black. If the figure is startling in her immediacy, Dubuffet creates a dynamic, multifaceted splendor in her surface.

During the early 1950s, Dubuffet would gradually shift away from his geological effigies, using ever-thicker pastes and mortars to build up pictures that resembled expanses of soil, stone or gravel. His initial choice, however, of the female nude—that most charged of art-historical genres—allowed him to make an essential statement of intent. To him, the nude was “associated (for Occidentals) with a very specious notion of beauty (inherited from the Greeks and cultivated by the magazine covers); now it pleases me to protest against this aesthetic, which I find miserable and most depressing. Surely I aim for a beauty, but not that one. The idea that there are beautiful objects and ugly objects, people endowed with beauty and others who cannot claim it, has surely no other foundation than convention—old poppycock—and I declare that convention unhealthy” (J. Dubuffet, “Preface 1952”, quoted in P. Selz, The Work of Jean Dubuffet, exh. cat. Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1962, p. 64). Irreverent and revolutionary, Le Teint Plombé embodies Dubuffet’s protest against aesthetic norms, inaugurating a vital, iconoclastic vision of beauty which would forever change the face of Western art.

Le Teint Plombé translates as “leaden complexion”, offering a playful pun that highlights Dubuffet’s rich material sensibility. Distinct from its sense of a heavy or dull visage, this title might be seen to refer to the actual substance of the work, which likely incorporates the pigment of lead white. Also known as Cremnitz white—or, in French, blanc de plomb—lead white was an important component in classical oil painting, and found favor in the twentieth century among painters including Lucian Freud, who brought his nudes’ flesh to life with its tactile, granular texture. In the sixteenth century, it was also commonly used as a skin-whitener by women such as Queen Elizabeth I of England. The lead in the makeup had a toxic and sometimes even deadly effect on its users: a startlingly literal instance of Dubuffet’s “unhealthy” notions of conventional beauty in action. Dubuffet, who conceived of his materials as having behaviors and dispositions like living things, ironizes any such cosmetic associations in Le Teint Plombé. He employs his pigment not to conceal or to beautify, but rather as base matter from which to build a raw physical presence that bares her every element for all to see, powerful, characterful and unashamed.

More from ONE: A Global Sale of the 20th Century

View All
View All