Search for over 80 million sold items in our price database

Vache à l'herbage
Sold
Vache à l'herbage
Sold

About the item

Conveyed through an intricate painterly technique that embodies the enchanting delicacy of the artist’s unique aesthetic, Jean Dubuffet’s Vache à l’herbage epitomizes the artist's curious fascination with the bovine form, which informed his most important artistic experimentation throughout 1954.  The artist's obsessive focus on the peculiar subject of the cow epitomizes the playful energy of the Art Brut which he championed.  Whilst seemingly quotidian in its choice of iconography, Dubuffet elevates the lonely cow to symbolize the existential plight of the modern human, providing a metaphorical release from societal conventions. As one of the largest Vache paintings created by Dubuffet, this gallantly composed vision stands at the apogee of one of the artist's most iconic bodies of work.  Cows entered Dubuffet’s oeuvre previously for a brief period from 1943-44. However it was not until a decade later, when Dubuffet’s wife Lili was recovering from illness in a sanatorium outside of Paris, that he was drawn back to this theme. Journeying daily through the rural outskirts of Clermont-Ferrand, Dubuffet reveled in the simplicity of nature and the candor of the creatures he encountered. As the artist recalled several year later: “I became preoccupied with country subjects - fields, grassy pastures, cattle, carts and the work of the fields - all things I had treated with enthusiasm in 1943 and 1944. As formerly, I loved spending hours watching the cows and afterwards drawing them from memory, or even, but much more rarely, from life... The sight of this animal gives me an inexhaustible sense of well-being because of the atmosphere of calm and serenity it seems to generate." (Jean Dubuffet, "Vaches, Herbe, Frondaisons," in Peter Selz, The Work of Jean Dubuffet, New York, 1962, pp. 96-103)\nCrucially re-imagined from memory, the cow embodies innocence as a source of reverie and speaks back to Rousseau’s defamation of modern civilization as corrupting to the human  spirit, valorizing instead a mode of existence based on intuition over rationality. Thus the cow, in its whimsical and folkloric constitution, represents a release from the rigid formalities of urban life in post-war Paris. Characteristically so, Dubuffet approaches the subject with a sense of child-like wonder, drawing from the aesthetics of outsider artists; the untrained visions of freedom and emotive energy which informed the base theory of Art Brut. Through a wildly wandering sense of irreverent delineation Dubuffet’s playful scrawl is at once analytic and mystical, projecting a highly personal and consciously naïve vision.\nThrough a subject that at first appears prosaic, Dubuffet tears apart the rules of painting, in favor of a sensual rendering that privileges psychological intensity in the Surrealist vein. The artist flattens the picture plane, eschewing intelligible markers of depth and fusing the cow with its pulsating surround in order to “animate the surface,” letting it “speak its own language and not an artificial language of three-dimensional space which is not proper to it...” (the artist quoted in Hubert Damisch, Ed., Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, Paris, 1976, p. 74)  This modernistic flattening recalls the artist's earlier 'Landscapes of the Mind' and foreshadows the later Texturologies which take two-dimensionality to an extreme end.\nDubuffet creates a profoundly textural surface, embracing a density that mirrors the corporal nature of fertile earth. The crackling of enamels and self-made oil emulsions render painting as an almost shamanistic act, building up successive layers that activate the surface with the conflicts of creation: "An artwork is all the more enthralling the more of an adventure it has been, particularly if it bears the mark of this adventure, and if one can discern all the struggles that occurred between the artist and the intractabilities of the materials. As if he himself did not know where it would all lead." (Jean Dubuffet, "Notes for the Well-Read," in Marc Glimcher, Ed., Dubuffet: Towards an Alternative Reality, New York, 1987, p. 69) Creating the effect of dried mud, Dubuffet enables a perfect symbiosis of the farm creature and the earth which sustains it.\nAs a prevalent motif of classical mythology, Picasso had reused the symbol of the bull in the tradition of the animal as heroic metaphor, emphasizing a hyper-masculine virility. Dubuffet’s turn to its female counterpart – more readily associated with agriculture than epic legends – artfully deconstructs such bravado. As Robert Hughes commented in 1993, “The funniest and most agrestic of all his paintings were, undoubtedly, the cows – a snook cocked at Picasso’s heroic Spanish Bulls. Kippered there on the canvas in their dense yet somehow airy paint, yearning, dumb and absurdly coquettish, they are among the most memorable animals in modern art." (Robert Hughes, “An Outlaw Who Loved Laws”, Time Magazine, 26 July 1993, p. 63) Dubuffet takes an irreverently extreme focus on the creature, swelling its form to fill the entirety of the picture frame, counter to the landscape tradition in which agrarian creatures were used as mere punctuation to Arcadian vistas. As a subject for art, Dubuffet embraces the farcical character of the cow and in this disconcerting sense of comedy he finds kinship with Absurdist writers such as Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco and Jean Genet. Through the creation of spectacle and bizarre animal characterization we are compelled to reassess the isolation that informs the modern human condition and seek ironic solace in the comfort of a familiar creature.\nSigned and dated 54; signed, titled and dated août 54 on the reverse
US
NY, US
US

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Jean Dubuffet

condition

This painting is in excellent condition. Please contact the Contemporary Art Department at (212) 606-7254 for the condition report prepared by Terrence Mahon. The canvas is not framed. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

35 1/4 by 45 in. 89.5 by 114.3 cm.

exhibition

New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, J. Dubuffet - Recent Paintings, Collages & Drawings, November - December 1954, n.p., no. 12 (checklist) Pittsburgh, The Carnegie Institute, The 1955 Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting, October - December 1955, pl. 26, no. 82, illustrated (titled Purple Cow) New York, M. Knoedler & Company, The Colin Collection: Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, April - May 1960, n.p., no. 98, illustrated Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Palais du Louvre, Jean Dubuffet: 1942-1960, December 1960 - February 1961, p. 225, no. 132 (checklist) and p. 314, pl. 60, illustrated New York, Stephen Hahn Gallery, Vaches, October - November 1972 New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Jean Dubuffet: A Retrospective, April - December 1973, p. 109, no. 71, illustrated (New York) and p. 72, no. 80, illustrated (Paris) Berlin, Akademie der Künste; Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst, Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts; and Cologne, Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle, Dubuffet: Retrospektive, September 1980 - March 1981, p. 157, no. 142, illustrated in color and p. 339, no. 142, illustrated

literature

"Jean Dubuffet, or the metamorphosis of Mr. Macadam," Mizue, No. 688, Tokyo, July 1962, p. 59, illustrated Lorenza Trucchi, Jean Dubuffet, Rome, 1965, p. 183, no. 159, illustrated Max Loreau, Ed., Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Fascicule X: Vaches - Petites statues de la vie précaire, Paris, 1969, p. 79, no. 105, illustrated

provenance

Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York The Colin Family Collection, New York (acquired from the above) Christie's, New York, November 15, 2006, Lot 27 (consigned by the above) Acquired from the above by the present owner

signedDate

Signed and dated 54; signed, titled and dated août 54 on the reverse

consignmentDesignation

Property from an Important European Collection

creator_nationality_dates

1901 - 1985


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


Advert
Advert

Sold items

Vache tachetée
Sold

Vache tachetée

Realized Price
3,479,500 USD

Vache à l'herbage
Sold

Vache à l'herbage

Realized Price
3,040,000 USD

Lost Boys: AKA Black Al
Sold

Lost Boys: AKA Black Al

Realized Price
2,655,000 USD

Vache la belle fessue
Sold

Vache la belle fessue

Realized Price
2,249,562 USD

Vaches au bord de la mer
Sold

Vaches au bord de la mer

Realized Price
2,023,500 USD

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) VACHE AU GENOU ROUGE
Withdrawn
Enzo sammengo - ritratto di jose nogne in riva al mare
Withdrawn