Reference Sculptures

Group of Four Trees, 1969-72, Epoxy Resin, Public Art, Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza, New York City. Jean Dubuffet.

Image source: New York City Public Art Curriculum, web site,


La Chiffoniere, 1978, Stainless steel and black epoxy. Public Art, Financial District, Foot of Market Street, San Francisco. Jean Dubuffet.

Image source: Vernacular Language North, web site,

Jean Dubuffet & Sculpture - 3D design

Adapted from the lesson by Tim Hunt, John Paul II High School, Plano, Texas.

Objective: To gain an understanding of methods and procedures for creating a sculpture. Students will study in class with teacher and work as an artist in creating maquettes (models) for a monumental structure. Students sculpture in-the-round will be influenced by Jean Dubuffet sculptures.

This lesson takes on the role of mentorship, Jean Dubuffet is the artist-mentor through images and study.

Guiding Questions:

  • How can you desribe abstract art? non-objective art?
  • Who were some Dubuffet's contemporaries (sculptors)? What methods did
    they use?
  • Why did Jean Dubuffet make models for his large scale resin sculptures? How?
  • How does his work make you think about forms?
  • How does the enviroment/location make a difference? Why? What does the artist have to consider?
  • What did Jean Dubuffet do to create contrast and interest?

Materials: Builders foam board can be easily carved into shapes and pasted or slotted together, it is also inexpensive and non-toxic, as styrofoam or plastic objects are not when glued with a heat gun, ie. Boxes, tubes, sheets, tubs, pots; acrylic paint and paint brushes; paper for sketching, cutters for plastic (scissors, sheet cutters), white glue (or hot glue gun), overhead projector (LCD & computer).

Classroom Arrangement: Studio activities.

Day 1
Show students the work of Jean Dubuffet, and explain his ideas, and his work. You can do this by passing out books on his work, or giving students time for research. Students must consider not only how the sculptures were built, but also gain understanding of the process of making the form and shape as well, and answer:

  • Why did Dubuffet work in such manner?
  • How did he come up with these forms?
  • What are the materials? What are traditional, or non-traditional, materials?
  • How is color used, and line?
  • What are the shapes as a whole, figurative or abstract or both?

The sculptures (black, white, red, & blue) were made into 3 dimensional sculptures from the many drawings Dubuffet made on sheets of paper first and completed at the end of the 1960s. The sculptures are part of the 'Hourloupé' cycle of art works by Dubuffet. The word 'Hourloupé' was invented by Dubuffet, and puts together the meaning: to shout, to howl, and wolf, and was inspired from or for mental distraction.
The shapes multiply, as he begins with one, which becomes a group.

The move from 2 dimensional drawings to 3 dimensional sculptures happened over a few years, and results in Dubuffet’s large Closerie Falbala, an enclosed environment that was built on his property just outside of Paris, France.

Dubuffet's procedure was to draw with a thick black marker towards an object such as a wheelbarrow, but this becomes meandering shapes when some are filled in with solid color, some are filled in with hatched lines, and some are left blank. As a whole, they suggest an object and at the same time they do not. Dubuffet was quoted to say about his process,

"At present I make objects (whether a typewriter, wheelbarrow, bed or fishing boat...) very 'hourloupés'. What I mean is that I am swimming up stream, against the 'L'hourloupé' current. I am approaching it from the opposite direction: instead of starting out with indeterminate lines that eventually give me a wheelbarrow. I start out with the idea of making a wheelbarrow and then add my indeterminate lines. In effect what I am doing is making the current run simultaneously in both directions at the same time." Cited by Michel Thevoz, Venice Biennale, and reprinted in Jean Dubuffet: Works, Writings, and Interviews, pg.80.

Dubuffet used Polystyrene, or plastic, because it was light, and he could work with it quickly, it also created shapes that suited his drawings. Polystyrene did not belong to the traditional world of sculpture, which is what Dubuffet always looked for in art materials. He valued those materials that were not found in official art.

Ask students to consider Dubuffet’s philosophy towards art. He does not value the elite culture of art. He is in search of authentic art. He is not interested, and does not value artwork by artists who learn from past artists, and devalues the repetition of historic subject matter.

  • In terms of subject matter, what does he choose to draw or paint?
  • Students must study and consider what objects have been painted in the official art, and repeated, compared to what has not.
  • What objects or subjects did Dubuffet paint?
  • What will students choose for their sculpture?

Studio Work
Students will sketch out 3 different plans of action for their sculpture influenced by Dubuffet. Students will work with the teacher, take building foam board, white Styrofoam, or plastic (bendable), and cut out the design. Paint the edges and pattern/lines with black acrylic paint. Glue or slot the pieces together.

Critique student work, then take another look at the sculptures of Jean Dubuffet. If the class is familiar with Art Brut a discussion on how Dubuffet was influenced by Art Brut could be undertaken. Ask students to write a reflection about their work.

Assessment & Evaluation

Criteria 1
Planning Sketches

  • Thoughtful sketches show an understanding of sculptural design /10
  • Sketches show an understanding of sculptural design /9 – 8
  • Sketches show some understanding of sculptural design /7
  • Sketches show little understanding of sculptural design /6 or less

Criteria 2
Elements and Principles of Design

  • Sculpture shows understanding of elements and principles of design - appealing from all sides (in the round) /10
  • Sculpture shows understanding of elements and principles of design - appealing from some sides. /9 – 8
  • Sculpture shows some understanding of elements and principles of design - appealing from some sides. /7
  • Sculpture shows little understanding of elements and principles of design - appealing from some sides. /6 or less

Criteria 3

  • Paint adds contrast and interest? /10
  • Paint adds some contrast and little interest.? /9 – 8
  • Paint adds little contrast and little interest. /7
  • Paint adds no contrast and no interest. Not completed. /6 or less

Criteria 4

  • Idea was developed & project completed (Didn’t rush.) Good use of class time? /10
  • Idea was developed somewhat & project was completed Some good use of class time? /9 – 8
  • Idea had little development & project completed Some good use of class time? /7
  • Idea has no development & was not completed. /6 or less

Criteria 5

  • Neat, clean & complete? Skillful use of the art tools & media? /10
  • Somewhat neat, clean & complete? Some skill in use of the art tools & media? /9 – 8
  • Somewhat clean & complete. Some skill in use of the art tools & media? /7
  • Not clean, or complete. Some skill in use of the art tools & media? /6 or less

Total: /50

Student Comments:


Teacher Comments:


© 2007, L.Moriarity, For education purposes only.