Community View

Jean Dubuffet:
Brutal Beauty

Explore a collection of activities and resources, co-produced by Headway East London, inspired by Jean Dubuffet.

Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty. Installation view. Barbican Art Gallery, 17 May – 22 August 2021 © Tristan Fewing / Getty Images

Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty. Installation view. Barbican Art Gallery, 17 May – 22 August 2021 © Tristan Fewing / Getty Images

Welcome from Headway East London

Since 2019, we have been working with the Barbican as their first Community Collaborator. In recent months, members of our onsite art studio, Submit to Love, have been in close discussion with the Barbican Art Gallery’s curatorial team; reflecting on and responding to both the work and themes emerging from Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty. As part of this work, we've put together our Community View for you to enjoy - a collection of fun creative activities and reflections we’ve created in response to the exhibition.

We'd love to see the artworks you create in response to the activities! You can share them with us by emailing a photo to [email protected]or upload them to social media with the hashtag #BrutalBeauty tagging us @HeadwayELondon and @BarbicanCentre. We'll be sharing some of your work at the end of the exhibition, to celebrate your creativity!

You can scroll down this page or use the tabs at the top to find the section you’d like.

Thanks so much for visiting, enjoy!

About Headway East London

Headway East London is an award-winning charity supporting people affected by brain injury. Working across 13 boroughs we deliver services and support to nearly 200 survivors and family members each week. We believe that every person in our community has something to contribute to our work and wider society, and all of our services are designed to encourage co-production, respect, and empowerment.

Meet the Artists: Inside Submit to Love Studios at Headway East London

The Barbican came to meet some of Headway East London's artists at Submit to Love Studios. Each week, up to 40 people work collectively in an open studio environment and help bring out the best in each other. Submit to Studios' mission is 'discovery through art' and like Jean Dubuffet, we champion the notion that art is by everyone, for everyone.

The Barbican met Simon, Billy, Sam, Sandra, Errol, and Chris to learn more about their art and how some of them have taken inspiration from Dubuffet's work.

Thank you to everyone at Headway East London and Submit to Love Studios.

About Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty

Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty is a new exhibition at Barbican Art Gallery (Mon 17 May–Sun 22 Aug 2021) that explores the life and work of French artist Jean Dubuffet, who lived from 1901–1985.

Alongside his own artworks which include paintings, installation, drawings and, collage, his collection of Art Brut artists is featured and celebrated. Art Brut literally means ‘raw art’ in French. Dubuffet came up with this term for people who hadn’t been to art school but made incredibly powerful artwork. They included children, tattoo and graffiti artists, and patients of mental health hospitals. Dubuffet acquired Art Brut works throughout his life. The artists that created them profoundly impacted his approach to the making and meaning of art. Dubuffet questioned what art can be and who can make it and he often preferred art made by children to that made by formally trained artists.

You can find out more about the Art Brut artists featured in the exhibition, and in Dubuffet's collection, in our exhibition guide.

The exhibition champions Dubuffet’s rebellious philosophy as he tried to capture the poetry of everyday life in a gritty, more authentic way. It's the first major survey of his work in the UK for over 50 years, showcasing four decades of his career, from early portraits and fantastical statues, to butterfly assemblages and giant colourful canvases.

Take a tour of the exhibition

Barbican curator Eleanor Nairne takes us on a short tour of the exhibition to share some of her favourite artworks from the exhibition.

Click on each image to see it full screen.

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery, 17 May – 22 August 2021

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet’s Vicissitudes (Les Vicissitudes), 21 January 1977, in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery, © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images .

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet’s Vicissitudes (Les Vicissitudes), 21 January 1977, in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery, © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images .

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Monsieur Plume, Botanical Specimen (Portrait of Henri Michaux) (Monsieur plume pièce botanique [portrait d’Henri Michaux]), December 1946 and Dhôtel, July–August 1947 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Monsieur Plume, Botanical Specimen (Portrait of Henri Michaux) (Monsieur plume pièce botanique [portrait d’Henri Michaux]), December 1946 and Dhôtel, July–August 1947 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Mire G 177 (Bolero), 28 December 1983 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images .

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Mire G 177 (Bolero), 28 December 1983 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images .

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Roses of the Earth (Les Roses de la terre), February 1952, alongside Sun without Virtue (Soleil sans vertu), January 1952 in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Roses of the Earth (Les Roses de la terre), February 1952, alongside Sun without Virtue (Soleil sans vertu), January 1952 in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Ideoplasma II (L3) (Ideoplasme II [L3]), 18 September 1984, alongside Fulfilment (Epanouissement), 11 November 1984 in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Ideoplasma II (L3) (Ideoplasme II [L3]), 18 September 1984, alongside Fulfilment (Epanouissement), 11 November 1984 in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Dubuffet in his studio in Paris, 1951 by Robert Doisneau alongside The Tree of Fluids (L’Arbre de fluides), October 1950, in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Dubuffet in his studio in Paris, 1951 by Robert Doisneau alongside The Tree of Fluids (L’Arbre de fluides), October 1950, in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Fleury-Joseph Crepin, Composition No. 33, Composition No. 6, Composition No. 43, Composition No. 32, all 1939. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Fleury-Joseph Crepin, Composition No. 33, Composition No. 6, Composition No. 43, Composition No. 32, all 1939. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Aloïse Corbaz, Berlin Kaiser Gabriel Chamorel, 1946–47 alongside framed notebooks, in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Aloïse Corbaz, Berlin Kaiser Gabriel Chamorel, 1946–47 alongside framed notebooks, in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Maurice Baskine, Untitled (Sans titre), from the ‘Characters with Seals’ (‘Personnages aux sceaux’) series, date unknown. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Maurice Baskine, Untitled (Sans titre), from the ‘Characters with Seals’ (‘Personnages aux sceaux’) series, date unknown. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, The Extravagant One (L'Extravagante), July 1954 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London; Jean Dubuffet, Knight of the Night (Chevalier de nuit), July 1954 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images .

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, The Extravagant One (L'Extravagante), July 1954 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London; Jean Dubuffet, Knight of the Night (Chevalier de nuit), July 1954 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images .

Installation view of Coucou Bazar in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Coucou Bazar in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Coucou Bazar in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Coucou Bazar in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Item 1 of 12

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet’s Vicissitudes (Les Vicissitudes), 21 January 1977, in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery, © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images .

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet’s Vicissitudes (Les Vicissitudes), 21 January 1977, in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery, © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images .

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Monsieur Plume, Botanical Specimen (Portrait of Henri Michaux) (Monsieur plume pièce botanique [portrait d’Henri Michaux]), December 1946 and Dhôtel, July–August 1947 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Monsieur Plume, Botanical Specimen (Portrait of Henri Michaux) (Monsieur plume pièce botanique [portrait d’Henri Michaux]), December 1946 and Dhôtel, July–August 1947 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Mire G 177 (Bolero), 28 December 1983 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images .

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Mire G 177 (Bolero), 28 December 1983 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images .

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Roses of the Earth (Les Roses de la terre), February 1952, alongside Sun without Virtue (Soleil sans vertu), January 1952 in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Roses of the Earth (Les Roses de la terre), February 1952, alongside Sun without Virtue (Soleil sans vertu), January 1952 in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Ideoplasma II (L3) (Ideoplasme II [L3]), 18 September 1984, alongside Fulfilment (Epanouissement), 11 November 1984 in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, Ideoplasma II (L3) (Ideoplasme II [L3]), 18 September 1984, alongside Fulfilment (Epanouissement), 11 November 1984 in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Dubuffet in his studio in Paris, 1951 by Robert Doisneau alongside The Tree of Fluids (L’Arbre de fluides), October 1950, in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Dubuffet in his studio in Paris, 1951 by Robert Doisneau alongside The Tree of Fluids (L’Arbre de fluides), October 1950, in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Fleury-Joseph Crepin, Composition No. 33, Composition No. 6, Composition No. 43, Composition No. 32, all 1939. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Fleury-Joseph Crepin, Composition No. 33, Composition No. 6, Composition No. 43, Composition No. 32, all 1939. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Aloïse Corbaz, Berlin Kaiser Gabriel Chamorel, 1946–47 alongside framed notebooks, in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Aloïse Corbaz, Berlin Kaiser Gabriel Chamorel, 1946–47 alongside framed notebooks, in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Maurice Baskine, Untitled (Sans titre), from the ‘Characters with Seals’ (‘Personnages aux sceaux’) series, date unknown. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Maurice Baskine, Untitled (Sans titre), from the ‘Characters with Seals’ (‘Personnages aux sceaux’) series, date unknown. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, The Extravagant One (L'Extravagante), July 1954 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London; Jean Dubuffet, Knight of the Night (Chevalier de nuit), July 1954 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images .

Installation view of Jean Dubuffet, The Extravagant One (L'Extravagante), July 1954 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London; Jean Dubuffet, Knight of the Night (Chevalier de nuit), July 1954 © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London Photo: Tristan Fewings / Getty Images .

Installation view of Coucou Bazar in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Coucou Bazar in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Coucou Bazar in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

Installation view of Coucou Bazar in Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty at the Barbican Art Gallery © 2021 ADAGP, Paris/DACS, London. Photo: Marcus Leith

How To: Make Art Like Jean Dubuffet

Take inspiration from Jean Dubuffet's art and learn more about Art Brut with the Barbican's fun animated video to make you get creative.

Illustrations from Submit to Love Studios, students of the Garden School, the Sydney Russell School and illustrator Aleesha Nandhra.


Making Art Like Dubuffet – Schools Responses

Browse the gallery below to see some amazing artworks students from The Garden School and The Sydney Russell School created in response to the activities ‘True Face’ and ‘Magic Materials’ that are featured in the video above. Enjoy looking at their art and getting creative yourself!

Click on each image to see it full screen.

Item 1 of 14

Can We Be Artists?
Self-Portrait Activity

Taking inspiration from Jean Dubuffet’s series of portraits, the artists from Submit to Love created this activity to invite you to try your (other) hand at drawing yourself whilst thinking about some key questions.

What you need

  • Pencil
  • Plain paper (the bigger the better)
  • Pens (or anything else you have to hand to bring it to life)

Step 1

Grab your pencil or pen and put it in your less dominant hand. (i.e. If you write with your right hand, then use your left hand).

Step 2

Now draw a self-portrait.


Top Tips

This can be a drawing of yourself or something that represents your personality.

Go big on the paper!

Try to do it in 3 minutes and don’t worry about what it looks like.

Try to be bold with your lines. If you draw it with a pencil first you can go over it with a pen.

Step 3

Take a look at the questions below and think about how you would answer them...

Is everyone a potential artist? 

Does art need to be beautiful? 

Who decides what art is? 

Whose art should be displayed in art galleries? 

What is art for?