… Dubuffet … speaks for but a single mood inside a single period of that age.
… Dubuffet is obviously, as every fleck of paint on his canvases shows, an erudite painter, and no more a primitive than Klee. Like the latter, whose influence he is one of the few Frenchmen to feel, he paints the primitive and the childlike at a remove, portraying it, so to speak, from the heights of culture, and as a state of mind, not a way of art.
In his earlier paintings, those of 1943 and 1944, Dubuffet tries to find an equivalent in color for the “primitivist” reduction to which he subjects his drawing. These pictures are in flat, thin, high, unmodulated tones. But they do not work, they falsify the artist’s sensibility and experience; this elementary spectrum is not sincere; and none of the pictures of t his period are truly successful. In contrast to the directness and richness obtained by Matisse and Miró when they take lessons in chromaticism from barbaric or children’s art, the result is impoverished, giving us to suspect frustrated talent at the most.
The tonality of Dubuffet’s 1945 and 1946 pictures is a radical departure. There is a sudden scaling down to blacks, browns, grays, and dirty whites, with pinkish, lavender, or bluish overtones running in and out like glazes. The pigment is mixed with tar, asphalt, or gravel and laid on thickly, roughly, and, apparently, with plenty of varnish. The drawing remains more or less the same in principle, but now the lines are scored or scratched into the paint as if with a stick. The result is, on the whole, original and profound.
Jean Dubuffet, Apartment Houses, London, 1946
… Three or four more pictures on the level of Promeneuse au Parapluie [which I can't find for this post; sorry!] would suffice almost of themselves to make Dubuffet one of the major painters of the twentieth century. This, even though his art still suffers under the limitations of being too essentially personal — which is a limitation it shares with Klee’s. Where Picasso, Matisse, and even Mondrian speak for a whole age, Dubuffet still speaks for but a single mood inside a single period of that age.
Jean Dubuffet, Inhabited Landscape, 1946