Inconsistancies was painted by Dubuffet between 18 February and 8 March 1964, at Vence, in the south of France. The four panels which make up Inconsistancies comprise the first monumental painting in the style of 'L'Hourloupe'. In scale, the only comparable work in this series is the long panel Nunc stans 1965 (162.0 x 822.0cm) in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
The style of the 'L'Hourloupe' paintings was inspired by doodles that Dubuffet made with a ballpoint pen while talking on the telephone in July 1962. The jigsaw-like style which evolved was to occupy the artist for the next decade.
In a statement written for an early exhibition of these paintings (which included Inconsistancies) at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher in 1964, Dubuffet likened the 'L'Hourloupe' paintings to an 'Image Fair':
Has the taste for the festive, for the arbitrary and fantastic vanished? Do we wish nowadays only to learn? Can not a man in all legitimacy choose, once at least — and why not, perhaps, once for all? — not truth (a shifting thing anyway), but change and delusion? Can he not play out his role of drunken dancer? Can he not like a Chinese juggler, on the day of great rejoicing, draw from his head the shimmering scarves of incongruity and deck out his home amidst the joyous tinkling bells of the merry Fair of Equivalences and Inconsistancies.1
Eight years later, in 1972, on the occasion of the unveiling of one of his sculptures, Group of four trees, fashioned in the style of 'L'Hourloupe' for the Chase Manhattan Plaza, New York, Dubuffet spoke more reflectively about the origin of the 'L'Hourloupe' series:
I should mention in passing that 'L'Hourloupe' is a word whose invention was based upon its sound. In French, these sounds suggest some wonderland or grotesque object or creature, while at the same time they evoke something rumbling and threatening with tragic overtones. Both are implied.
In my thinking, the works that belong to the 'Hourloupe' cycle are linked one to the other, each of them an element destined to become part of the whole. The cycle itself is conceived as the figuration of a world other than our own or, if you prefer parallel to ours, and it is this world which bears the name L'Hourloupe'.
The works originating in this cycle are in the form of sinuous graphisms responding with immediacy to spontaneous and, so to speak, uncontrolled impulses of the hand which traces them. With these graphisms, imprecise, fugitive and ambiguous figures take shape. Their movement sets off in the observer's mind a hyperactivation of the visionary faculty. In these interlacings all kinds of objects form and dissolve as the eyes scan the surface, intimately the transitory and the permanent, the real and the fallacious. The result (at least, this is the way it works for me) is an awareness of the illusory character of the world which we think of as real, and to which we give the name of the real world. These graphisms, with their constantly shifting references, have the virtue (to me, I should add again) of challenging the legitimacy of what we habitually accept as reality. This reality is, in truth, only one option collectively adopted, to interpret the world around us — one option among an infinity of equally legitimate possibilities. Had any one of these other options been adopted at the dawn of human thought, it would today offer the same impression of reality that we now confer upon the established one. Thus, as you can see, a philosophic humor presides over the works of the 'Hourloupe' cycle-introducing a doubt about the true materiality of the everyday world. It too may be only a mental construct.2
Beside the artist's signature in the top right-hand corner, Les Inconsistances is inscribed 'Morris J. Pinto'. Morris was a prodigious early collector of Dubuffet's work. The inscription was placed on the painting in the winter of 1964-65 when Pinto purchased the painting.
Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.342.
- Statement printed in French and English in the catalogue for the exhibition, Jean Dubuffet L'l lourloupe, Paris: Galerie Jeanne Bucher, December 1964, n.p.
- Jean Dubuffet, 'Remarks on the Unveiling of The Group of Four Trees', New York, 24 October 1972, reprinted in Jean Dubuffet: A Retrospective, New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1973 (exhibition catalogue), pp.35-6.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010