Apartment Houses, Paris

Artist: Jean Dubuffet (French, Le Havre 1901–1985 Paris)

Date: 1946

Medium: Oil with sand and charcoal on canvas

Dimensions: 45 × 57 5/8 in. (114.3 × 146.4 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Bequest of Florene M. Schoenborn, 1995

Accession Number: 1996.403.15

Rights and Reproduction: © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


In 1923, after reading Hans Prinzhorn’s Artistry of the Mentally Ill (1922), in which the art of the mentally ill was first considered to have aesthetic value, Dubuffet became interested in pictures made by those without formal training—the uninitiated, the alienated, and especially the insane. In 1945, he started a collection of these pictures, which he called "art brut" (raw art). Emulating these works, Dubuffet intentionally adopted a crude style in Apartment Houses, Paris, which depicts pedestrians in the back alleys of Paris. Here, the street, sidewalks, and houses are stacked in rows, one above the other, without perspective, depth, or modeling.