February 09, 2016

Alphonse Wallart, La maison de la Couture/The house in la Couture

old postcard (from before world war II)

When in 1962 french photographer Gilles Ehrman published his book Les inspirés et leurs demeures (The inspired and their abodes) this marked the development of interest in art environments in France among a still small group of interested people. Ehrmann presented artists such as Fredinand Cheval, Abbé Fouré and Raymond Isidore (Picassiette), who currently still are on the top of the list.

But he also presented art environments whose creators remained unmentioned in later publications about art environments and currently seem to be forgotten, such as Alphonse Wallart, who decorated the exterior of his house in la Couture with sculptures of war heroes and politicians and with sculpted medallions of his parents amidst famous people.

Life and works 

Not much is known about Wallart's life.  He was born as son of a farmer in 1871 and died in 1958 at age 87. He probably spent all his life in la Couture, or in any case the main part of it, and was nicknamed le poète du ciment (the poet of cement).

The house he decorated in such a special way, is located in a small neighbourhood of la Couture, named le Touret. This house, on the corner of a local street and a departmental road, has a distinctive architecture, and it would be interesting to know if and if so in what way Wallart has been involved in the design of this house.

On its roof it has a large porch and a large build up provided with a lot of glassware. Kind of a loft avant la lettre....

Then, the roof is decorated with a vertical structure in the shape of a cone, topped with a transparant globe of glass and concrete, on which a sculpture stands depicting Marianne, France's symbol. This decoration currently no longer exists; it was removed or destroyed during world war II.

this picture (1950's?) from the website memoires de pierre
 by Thadée Szalamacha, who made various pictures of french war memorials

This might indicate that the construction and installation of the sculptures has started in the years before the second world war, so in the 1920's and/or 1930's, when Wallart was aged between 50 and 70.

The sculpture that takes the most important position, center front, depicts marshall Foch, seated on a horse. Foch was the supreme commander of the allied forces, that in september 1918 initiated a major offensive against the German forces. Their retreat would lead to the armistice of november 11, 1918.

The house is located in an area which has suffered much from this war and there are many war grave and monuments, also along the main road leading past Wallart's house.The sculpture of the horse-seated marshall Foch is both a war monument and a homage to this army chief, who became very popular in France.

Other sculptures on the porch, left and right of marshall Foch depict general de Gaulle and marshall Leclerc. Originally the porch had four sculptures of french generals.

The concrete medaillons Wallart added to the facade of the house depict his parents amidst famous people of his time such as the politicians Clémenceau and Poincaré, general Joffre, the king of Belgium and his wife, and Alexander I of Yugoslavia.

The house is also denoted by the name Villa des Verdures which refers to the greenery (verdures) that hides the facade from the view from the street.

* Website Mémoires de pierre
* Article in Echo 62, Le Pas-de-Calais-en-Ligne, may 2007

Alphonse Wallart
La maison de la Couture
on the corner of the rue du Touret and 
the route d'Armentières (D171)
le Touret, La Couture, Pas-de-Calais, France
no visits

January 27, 2016

Vivi Fortin, Jardin aux sculptures/Sculpture garden

pictures courtesy Vivi Fortin, from his weblog

On Vivi's weblog the caption of above picture reads Que du beau monde sur le sentier pédestre (Such beautiful people on the footpath).

Indeed, these pedestrians look very nice, but this also goes for the sculptures as such, which emanate a special charm.

Life and works

Vivi Fortin, who made these sculptures, was born in november 1953 (Actually his first name is Yves, but he prefers to be called Vivi). He currently lives in the small hamlet named le Pas Français, which belongs to the community La Flocellière, located in the Pays de la Loire area in France. His house has a large garden of some 5000 square meters (0.5 ha).

After primary school he went to work. He became a mason and tyler, a profession he has practised for some forty years.

In the spring of 2011 he got such troubles with his back, that he had to cease working.

sur les chemins de l'ecole au Kenya
(on the way to school in Kenya)

Not being a man to sit quietly on the couch, Fortin looked for something to do, and although he had no artistic education at all, he first tried his hand on making paintings, to switch after some months to making sculptures, which would become his great passion.

As he told a regional newspaper in 2014: During my professional life I did not invent anything. Now I want to go on creating and performing, just to bring joy on people's faces.

entente cordiale: la chasse à courre n'aura pas lieu
(entente cordiale* the hunt with hounds will not take place)

Fortin is a prolific worker. When interviewed in 2014 he already had created some 300 sculptures. Currently (2016) the number is about 500 works.

He makes ensembles, as can be seen in the pictures above, but he also makes stand alone sculptures, as can be seen in the picture below.

the french painter Claude Monet

Most sculptures of animals and people are not very large, about 30 to 50 cm high (except giraffes or so) and the whole collection of sculptures is more or less on scale.

Fortin began his sculpting adventure by making animals, mainly those from the farm and other well known ones, later he also portrayed famous personalities and characters from strip books.

Lucky Luke, the Daltons and Vivi

In creating a sculpture Fortin first makes a model from iron- or chickenwire which he plasters with a layer of cement, he models with hands and fingers. All sculptures are painted in appropriate colors with a specific paint, with a composition he strictly keeps secret.

The creations populate the large garden, but also find a place on the courtyard of the house, occasionaly displayed on tabeltops.

Currently Vivi Fortin is still active in making new sculptures. What surprising creations does he have in store ?


From september 15 - december 15, 2014 a selection of Fortin's sculptures was exposed in the town hall of La Flocellière.

* Fortin's weblog Sculpturedupas
* Article (august 2014) in regional newspaper Ouest-France
* Article (sept 2014) on the weblog of the local library
* Article (jan 2016) on Jean-Louis Bigou's weblog

* entente cordiale: a series of agreements in 1904 between France and the UK, marking the end of some 1000 years of conflict between these states

Vivi Fortin
Jardin aux sculptures
lieu-dit le Pas Français
85700 La Flocellière, Sèvremont, Pays de la Loire, France
visits in the afternoons, when the artist is at home
see his weblog to make an appointment

January 25, 2016

Robert Burns, Renaissance-inspired decorated interior

The Argus, regional newspaper for Sussex, England, in january 2007 had the news first. Under the heading Renaissance man's home is his canvas the journal reported about an inhabitant of Brighton and Hove, Egland, who some years before had begun to decorate the walls and ceilings of his house in renaissance style.

Life and works

Born in 1948, Robert Burns who grew up in Zambia, at age twenty settled in London, where he worked as a window-dresser. Later in life he went to live in Brighton and Hove in Sussex, where he had a job as an interior decorator. He got married and the couple got four children.

Although he never had lessons in art painting, around 2003 at age 55, he began making some paintings on a wall of the family home in the style of the Italian painters of the Renaissance.

His wife Linda said she liked his artwork and she encouraged him to keep it up. 

And so he did.

Burns once had bought a book about art of the Italian Renaissance and had become a fan of these painters and their way of making paintings. So when decorating the interior of his house he mainly reproduced works of Italian painters of the Renaissance such as Botticelli, Corregio and Rafaël, using reproductions in artbooks as an example. 

When interviewed in 2007 and asked by the newspaper why he had begun decorating the walls and ceilings, he said that this prevented that he would become annoyed when at home in between commissions. He probably also experienced this way of painting as more rewarding than painting the walls of a factory with over fifty litres of magnolia.

Burns ultimately decorated all his house, which has three bedrooms, a living room, a sitting room and a kitchen. Begun in 2003 it took him some twelve years to complete it. During these years he got retired, so from that moment on he could spend all his time to doing the decorations.

In 2015 the project was completed in such a way, that it could be presented to the British national press and most leading British newspapers like BBC-news, the Guardian, and the Daily Mail had articles about the decorated interior.

Burns and his wife do not own the house, but they rent it from the municipality. In general the rule for these houses is that when tenants leave the house, it should be left in it's original state. A spokesperson of the municipality has said however that this rule will not be applied too strictly, depending upon the wishes of the new tenant. 

Now that decorating walls and ceilings is finished, Burns makes paintings on canvas. Perhaps he has to restrain himself not to tackle the front facade of the house....

* In 2015 the British press had a lot of articles about this creation (see narrative)
* A short video on Youtube (1'01'", uploaded may 2015) gives an impression of the various paintings on the walls (the decorated ceilings hardly appear).

Robert Burns
Renaissance-inspired decorated interior
Twyford Close 21
Brighton and Hove, England U.K.
no public visits

January 20, 2016

Josep Jordá i Olivé, Museu Jordá/Jordá's Museum

this picture and the next ones in color (2015): 
screenprints from Serflac's video

Above sign asked the visitors of an art environment in Tarragona, Spain, not to break anything. Tragically, this art environment, which was frequently visited in the early 1930's, currently has almost completely disappeared.

Life and works

Josep Jordá i Olivé (1865-1953) was born in Tarragona, a city in the region Catalunya in north-west Spain.  He succeeded his parents, who had a shoemakers firm, and became an espardenyer, a fabricator of shoes made of rope (espadrilles) with a number of shops in Tarragona, he himself working and living 5 Carrer del Bou. 

In later life, when he was in his late fifties, Jordá got psychic problems and his doctor advised him to undertake an activity which would give him distraction. After he had visited Gaudi's Parc Gruell in Barcelona, Jordá tried to model some clay into a figure and this inspired him to continue sculpting. 

It would become his passion.

He owned a piece of land of some 30 ha at the outskirts of the city and around 1929 he began transforming this area into a sculpure garden he named Museu Jordá, a site soon designated by the public as Mas de les figures.

the pyramids at the entrance as in 2015

From cement Jordá created a variety of sculptures which he displayed on his piece of land. The entrance, marked left and right with a pyramid of some two meters (65 ft) high, was provided with a sign saying that one entered Jordá's museum. 

Jordá was a prolific worker. In 1933 the site already had some 70 sculptures, and in 1935 it counted some 200. The sculpture garden got a lot of publicity and already in the early 1930's the public came in large numbers to visit it.

 B/W photographs made in the 1930's by Vallvé,
as republished in the article by Baxeiras (see documentation) 

Jordá made stand alone sculptures, representing members of his family, politicians, saints, famous people, but also all kinds of animals.

He also arranged his creations into scenes, such as the one in the picture above which shows Columbus meeting Indians when he had arrived in America.

Another scene, in the picture below, has Quixote.

Jordá made his sculptures in situ and only occasionaly he would model them on a mold made from iron wire. He mainly just added some straw to the cement, which he put in circles to build up the figures. Thus the creations were extremely vulnerable, especially the protruding parts.

But the lifespan of the creations was not only limited by Jordá's construction method, they also suffered from vandalism. Already in 1931 some sculptures were vandalised, but in 1935 a large number of sculptures was demolished, especially those that appraised representatives of the spanish Republic and some that were seen as indecent.

This had to do with the rising tensions between those like Jordá who favored the liberal politics of the Republic and those who were in favor of Franco's nationalism and return to the values of former days.

Jordá closed his garden for the public and when after 1935 the civil war also raged in Catalunya and when in april 1939 Franco had become its winner, he kept quite and took care that his sculptures would not give rise to intervention by Franco's government.

the living house, 10x6 m (32x20 ft) located just past 
the entrance of the sculpture garden, as it was in 2015

After 1935 Jordá continued his creative activities, but he avoided publicity and public awareness. His dream that once his creation would be a public park, hasn't come true.

He died in 1953.

remnants in 2015

The art environment, left as it was, gradually degraded and nature regained it's rights. Currently one can hardly imagine how the garden's appearance was in those early years of the 1930's when it was crowded with hundreds of sculptures and visited by many interested people.

* Enric Baxeiras, "El Mas de les Figures", in: Kesse (Historical studies Tarragona), nr 18 (1996, p. 16-19)
* The site got a scholarly review in: Jo Farb Hernandez, Singular Spaces. From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments, Seatlle (Raw Vision, SPACES, San José State University), 2013. An abridged version is on the website of SPACES
* Video by Serflac (Youtube, uploaded august 2015, scenes of Jordá's former site in the last part of the video, beginning at 2'25", screenprints published here in agreement with the maker of the video)


Josep Jordá i Olivé
Museu Jordá
Tarragona Spain
located north of autopista 7,
in between Pont del Diable and crossing
of the TP-2031 (Carretera El Pont d'Armentera) and the AP-7

January 12, 2016

Gary Bevans, Replica Sistine Chapel

view from the street

At the outside the church of the English Martyrs in Goring-by-Sea, a suburb of the city of Worthing on England's south coast, doesn't look like a church in the traditional sense, it rather is a 1970's rectangular functional edifice *.

At the inside however, it's ecclesial character is umistakable and it takes extra style because the building's barrel vault is a replica of the Sistine Chapel in Rome,

Life and works

This decorated vault has been created by Gary Bevans, who belongs to the parish. Born in 1954, at a young age he already showed an artistic talent, but he couldn't go to an art academy, since after school he had to find work. Bevans became a signwriter, painting signs on pubs, shops, trucks and so on, a profession in which artistic qualities come in handy of course.

In 1987 he joined a group of parochians in a trip to Rome. Visiting the Sistine Chapel, he observed that the Chapel's ceiling in terms of size and shape was almost the same as the ceiling of his parish church in Goring-by-Sea. They both are 44 ft (13.4 m) wide, but the one in Goring is shorter

This resemblance gave him an idea. he would provide his parish church with a replica of the Sistine Chapel. Since he already had offered some paintings to the church, included one that paraphrased Michelangelo's Last Supper, the parish priest Fr. Enda Naughton knew Bevan's qualities as a painter and may have stimulated him to do the paintings.

Gary Bevans and father Enda Naughton

The bishop also agreed, so in 1987 Bevans began his project.

He used plywood panels, alltogether some 120, undercoated with primer and provided with a simple sketch of the scene to be painted. These panels were lifted up the scaffold and then screwed to the ceiling. Once attached,  the scene on the panel was elaborated with acrylic paint.

Like Michelangelo Bevans often had to do the painting while in a supine position.

Parochians could help to finance the project by adopting a panel (for around 20 GBP) and many were ready to contribute in this way.

Working in the evenings and in the weekends, it would take Bevans  years to complete this very special artwork, that covers a surface of 3500 sq ft (325 m2). The  original one in Rome covers 5000 sq ft (465 m2).

the Last Supper
courtesy Gattina

A unique replica

Completed in 1993, Gary Bevans replica is a major achievement, which might be the only copy in the world of the original.

France had another copy, made around 1970 by Irial Vets on the ceiling of a chapel in Saint-Vincent-la-Rivière in France, but this creation was whitewashed when the chapel was sold after its creator died.

And then for the film The agony and the Ecstasy (1965) with Charlton Heston as Michelangelo, a replica was painted by Ferdinand Bellan (1897-1976), a piece of scenery that may have been sold to a private party and maybe still exists

* a 360’ panoramic view
* website of the church
* UK website fully devoted to the Sistine Chapel replica
* the replica got a lot of publicity in the UK (newspapers, TV) and the New York Times also had a rather informative article
* Sistine Chapel Reproduction UK, a video by Mary's Dowry Production (47'44", Youtube, downloaded may 2013), at the occasion of the replica's twentieth anniversary. This video is also available on DVD

* The parish in 1937 bought a piece of land with a barn, built in 1771, that served as church. When the barn became too small, in the late 1960's a new church was built on the site, opened in 1970. The Barn currently has a social function

English Martyrs Catholic Church
Replica Sistine Chapel
Goring Way
Goring-by-Sea, BN12 4UE Worthing, 
West Sussex
United Kingdom
can be visited in summer from Easter till end october,
tue-fri 10-16, sat, sun after mass

December 26, 2015

Jean-Daniel Allanche, Apartement décoré/Decorated apartment

living room
pictures by Pierre Schwartz courtesy of Hervé Perdriolle

The rue des Ciseaux in Paris is a short, small street that on one side ends at the Boulevard Saint-Germain, just where the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which dates from the 6th century,  faces the café Les Deux Magots, a spot ever with the reputation of being the meeting place of Paris' literary and intellectual elite.

Only recently it has become known that in this street, right in the centre of Paris, an apartment was transformed into an art environment *.

Life and works 

Jean-Daniel Allanche (1940-2015) was born in Tunisia and moved to France, where did his studies. He got married in 1962, but the relationship ended in 1968.

Professor of physics at the Faculty of Sciences Paris 7, in 1975 he bought the apartment in the rue des Ciseaux

From the late 1970's on, bit by bit, he has decorated the apartment, working over and over again to accomplish it, but although this activity must have played an important role in his life, he was not very talkative about it..

In the course of the years Allanche has actually painted all available surfaces of the apartment, not just the walls, but also the ceilings, the floors, cabinet doors and step treads. Moreover he also displayed the many African and Indian sculptures he had collected when he was teaching as a professor in Congo and Burkina Fasso (1989-1995).

The multicolored paintings have whimsical motives, sometimes formed by a large number of dots or small circles, combined with vaguely represented people and animals. In some places texts are arranged and on one of the doors his surname appears.

Considering the entire set of paintings one gets the impression that they primarily have a decorative nature (such as Asalache, London), and are not intended to give expression to personal experiences (such as Bonaria Manca, Italy) or particular events or circumstances (such as Polina Rayko, Ukraine and Wiersma, Netherlands), this irrespective of the occasionally added texts.

Such a view is supported by a remark in one of Allanche's notebooks, where he says that he has managed to show the intimate relationship between musical harmony and colors.

To get an impression of Allanche's texts on the walls, here is how the one on the the wall pictured above reads:
Je me dresse face à la mort
moi sujet singulier
tout homme doit être vu
pour lui donner son âme vivante

I stand up to death/I singular subject/in your view/every man must be seen/to give him his living soul


Allanche's legacy also comprises a number of gouaches and oil paintings in the same style as the wall paintings. They mainly date from the late 1970's and maybe were made as designs for (parts of) his wall paintings **. 

And then he left a large number of notebooks. which contain personal remarks and aphorisms, but also hundreds of pages with sequences of numbers, which has to do with a passion for gambling and his endeavor (he was a professor of physics) to model disorder.


Allanche died in hospital in august 2015 from an incurable disease. 

It is not realistic to assume that Allance's small and indoor situated apartment could be opened for the general public as kind of a museum, so it will keep it's function as a private apartment and will be sold. Removable parts of this art environment will be stored and the remaining walls will be whitewashed.

In the future these removed elements might become part of the collection of a french museum.

* The physics of disorder. Brochure by Hervé Perdriolle, Paris (Galerie Hervé Perdriolle), 2015. ill. 

*  To my knowledge the only available source about Allanche's art environment is the brochure by Hervé Perdriolle, so I like to acknowledge that the data in this post are derived from this brochure (interpretations are my responsibility)
** Galerie Hervé Perdriolle has presented a number of Allanche's loose-leaf works on the Outsider Art Fair in New York in january 2016. Website Artspace (jan 22, 2016) wrote about Allanche in an article reviewing the art fair.

first published dec 2015, revised jan 2016

Jean-Daniel Allanche
Apartement décoré
Rue des Ciseaux
Paris VI, France
no public visits

December 22, 2015

Ludovic & René Montégudet, l'Étang fleurie/the flowery pond

l'Étang fleurie on an old postcard

This entry is about father and son Montégudet from the community of Lépinas in France. who in succession made an art environment near a pond owned by the family.

Ludovic Montégudet

Montégudet Sr (1903-1981) was an agrarian living in Lépinas, who also was the mayor of the community from 1947 untill 1953.

In 1967, retired, he wanted to do something for the inhabitants of Lépinas and he got the idea to do this by transforming the banks of a pond near where he lived into a walking area, made attractive by nice stagings.

As the postcard above shows, Montégudet made a variety of creations. Part of this art environment consisted of builded structures such as a round table, a mill and a belfry with an horloge parlante (a talking clock).

this picture and the next one cut outs from an old postcard

And there was a scene with a small boat with five standing persons who probably represent Indians

However, the major part of the staging consisted of all kinds of wooden sculptures, such as an Adam and Eve, various animals such as a raven, a fox, a lion, a rat, a butterfly, a grasshopper, which depicted in various combinations the in France well known fables of Lafontaine.

The Monster of Loch Ness was also present, as well as a representation of the mysterious warlord Roland à Roncevaux from Charlemagne's time.

The inhabitants of Lépinas welcomed the site and made good use of it, for example for the staging of wedding pictures and to have a lunch or make their outing on sunday afternoon. Visitors could consume something at a buffet.

this picture and the next ones (summer 2015) 
courtesy of Julia Sisi/Dan Casado

Montégudet, who had no education in making sculptures at all, mainly used wood he collected in the forest. The rather perishable creations had to be maintained regularly and thereby his son René lent a helping hand.

Montégudet's art environment was presented at the large exposition in 1978 in Paris Les singuliers de l'art: des inspirés aux habitants-paysagistes.  

After Montégudet Sr died in 1981, René Montégudet and his wife decided to store the sculptures in a separate shed near the familiy farm. It became a well-ordered private museum, not open to the public, a safe place for the fragile sculptures, included (four of the five) Indians, who watch the collection from the attic.

Except for some remnants, the site gradually disappeared and after some time the Étang fleurie was history. The area near the pond is private property and it can't be entered any more.. 

René Montégudet

This situation lasted untill around 1995. Then René Montégudet, who was in his fifties, began creating a new art environment, making rather realistic sculptures from concrete, mainly depicting animals. He displayed these creations on a rocky and hilly garden located along a small road opposite the family home.

Although he had helped his father in repainting the wooden sculptures and also had contributed some items to the original art environment, such as a wooden creation that welcomed visitors, all his life he was not really a man of hammer and chisel. 

So he had to recognize that something had happened to him and that he had become a self taught artist. His robust creations testify to a confident approach of and a familiarity with the material he used.

Montégudet Jr made the sculptures in his workshop, and then transported them with the help of friends to their spot on the rocky setting.

Since the internet hardly has pictures of René Montégudet's creations, and this art environment in my opinion deserves the attention of those who are interested in this subsection of the artworld, this post, thanks to Julia Sisi and Dan Casado, has more pictures than usual.

* La dynastie des Montégudet, inspirés de père en fils, published august 2009 by Bruno Montpied on his weblog Le Poignard Subtil, part 1 and part 2
* Above articles, supplemented with an introduction to an exposition of Ludovic Montégudet's creations, in: Bruno Montpied, Éloge des jardins anarchiques, Montreuil-sur-Bois (Ed l'Insomniaque), 2011, p 109-116

Ludovic Montégudet
l'Étang fleurie
no longer extant, sculptures in private keeping
René Montégudet
Sculpture garden
can be seen from the road, people are welcome to make pictures
Le Terrade
23150 Lépinas, Limousin, France