June 02, 2023

Restaurace a Veterán Muzeum, Tramvaj s figurínami / Tram with mannequins

all pictures thanks to Justyna Orlovska
from her website Off the beaten track

Valašské Meziříčí is a town with 22000 inhabitants in the west of the Czech Republic, near the border with Slovakia.

South of the municipality, along the main road nr 57, near a railway crossing, there is a complex comprising a microbrewery, a guest house and a museum-cum-restaurant (opened November 2015). 

On this complex, both outside and inside the buildings, a permanent exhibition of all kinds of vehicles and other items from earlier times has been arranged by the owners. The collection of vehicles includes two trams that were taken out of service after they for many years had run in the city of Ostrava, located some 60 km north-east of Valašské Meziříčí. 

Purchased in 2015, the two trams were transported by truck to the site, where they are now displayed as a prominent part of the overall exhibition. For the lover of trains and trams: these are trams of the type Tatra T3...

One of the two trams has something special: the rear vehicle is full of passengers, mainly mannequins that once filled clothing store windows and now, once again neatly dressed, occupy the seats of the tram.

It is a rather realistic scene. 

The very first image in this article in particular gives the strong impression that we see a tram with passengers, as they drive through a city every day. The degree of reality is greater than other doll sites in this weblog, for example Daina Kučere's garden with dolls in Sabile, Latvia, where the faces of the dolls are not as lifelike as those of the characters in the tram.

Visitors to the complex are not allowed to enter the rear tram, the front tram is accessible and photos of visitors sitting in the driver's seat can be seen on the internet.

The name of the person (or persons) who installed the figures in the tram and provided them with headgear and clothing are not available on the internet. There is also no information about the motives for decorating the tram with passengers. 

The same also applies to the question of what considerations led to the decoration of the site with sculptures of gods from earlier centuries

It seems that the most general consideration has to do with the desire to evoke memories of earlier times, for in addition to the decommissioned tram with mannequins, the complex offers many more exhibitions of such memories. 

For example, the restaurant is decorated with toys, bicycles, numerous models of motorcycles and cars from the past, all this accompanied by an inscription on the wall that says The Golden Sixties.

In an outdoor area is a stable with two horses composed of straw and three males, also made of straw, sitting on a bench, maybe an indication of the manpower and the horses that formerly were needed to to work the land belonging to a farm.

From the same point of view one can look at another feature of the complex, namely a collection of wooden sculptures. 

Probably professionally made, these sculptures represent characters from ancient times, such as Neptune, the god of the waves, Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, Hades, the god of the underworld, Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, and Ares, the god of the war.

The sculptures are displayed along the walls of the restaurant. Like the trams, these sculptures were probably bought somewhere; however, the internet has no information about this.

* Article on the website of Justyna Orlovska, with a series of photos
* Article on the touristic website Turistika, with some 75 photos 

Restaurant and Veteran Museum
Tram with mannequins
Podlesi 547
75701 Valašské Meziříčí, district Vsetín. regio Zlín, Czech Republic
visitors welcome
Google Maps with more than 2000 photos of the site

May 26, 2023

John Usher, Miniature village

picture (October 2003) by Karen Beach, Flickr 

The above image depicts a miniature village as it is situated today in the outer space of a museum devoted to the local history of the commune of Coniston in England's Lake District.

Life and works

This miniature village was created by John Usher (1940-1993) who lived in Coniston all his life. He became a bricklayer and builder by trade, just like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Living in his native house as a young man in the late 1950s, he already showed his delight in making miniature structures, and when  in the 1960s he built his own house, named Brow Close, he set to decorate the garden of his house with miniatures of all kinds of buildings.

family photo of Usher in the 1960s, in his garden amidst his first creations
from the Facebook of the Ruskin Museum

He started with buildings common to most villages, such as cottages, a pub, a bridge, following the style of building as usual in the Lake District.

Later he would also make replicas of famous buildings in the Lake District, such as the Bridge House in Ambleside, the Round House on Belle Isle in Lake Windermere and St Andrew's Church in his hometown Coniston.

Over a period of about 30 years, Usher gradually created an entire village of some 90 miniatures, each about 20 inches high, a complex he named Riverdale.

For the construction of the bases and roofs of the buildings, Usher used gray slate, which he found in the area. The walls were made of other stones or of cement, depending on the nature of the building. Windows were made of perspex, with narrow strips of wood for the window sills and frames. Doors consisted of small pieces of wood.

this picture and the next one by Dave Hawkyard 
as on Google Maps

John Usher passed away in 1993, when he was only in his early 50s. 

He had remained unmarried and had arranged for his estate to benefit a Coniston denomination and some local associations.

Almost all of the miniature buildings were bequeathed to the local Ruskin Museum, devoted to local history. A replica of the local St  Andrew's church found a place in that church.

The Ruskin Museum stored the miniatures for some time to formally arrange that they could be placed in the outdoor area of the museum. They have been situated there since 2000, cared for by volunteers. 

* Article by Mariella Landolf, "A model legacy", in: Raw Vision #105, Spring 2020
* Entry about the miniature village on the website of the Ruskin Museum
* An article (September 2018) in a website about trips in England, featuring attractions in the Lake District, including the Ruskin Museum and miniature village

John Usher

Miniature village

Coniston, Lake District, North-west England, England, UK

can be visited in the local Ruskin Museum

May 20, 2023

Marcel Bernier, Maison décorée / Decorated house

this picture and the next one courtesy of
Francis David

In the image above Marcel Bernier was photographed standing in front of his decorated home when Francis David, a researcher of art environments in France, paid him a visit in the late 1970s, early 1980s. 

Not much has been published on the internet about the life of Marcel Bernier. He was born in 1912, worked at a chemical factory, and retired in 1977.

In the early 1970s he started decorating his house along the rue Maurice Schumann in Creil, a city of some 120.000 inhabitants (2015), 45 km north of Paris in the Oise department in northern France. 

Every year in the summer period Bernier would paint the outside walls, this with the approach: "When the jar is empty, it's over."

Bernier's house has been said to lean against a hill. Indeed, it is located on the southern edge of a hilly area in the city that traditionally has many old limestone quarries. 

This area of quarries is located between rue Robert Schuman and rue du Haut des Tufs and is crossed in length by a walking path Allée des Tufs, which starts near the house of Marcel Bernier (see Google Maps)

Using the tuff, a soft sandstone, the emptied quarries were traditionally converted into dwellings, called troglodytes. Particularly in the 19th century, when increasing industrialization in Creil drew many workers from the surrounding countryside, living in troglodytes boomed.

photo city of Creil, as on newspaper le Parisien

The image above shows some of the 19th century buildings in the area with troglodytes.

The municipal authorities, who were forced to tolerate this form of housing, allowed residents to live for free, but sought to phase out such housing because of its potential insecurity.

Bernier's house was also part of the troglodyte area, although located at the very edge. 

Around 1990, when he was almost 80 years, Marcel Bernier, for security reasons, also left the house. Maybe he moved to a home for the elderly. At an unknown date in later years he passed away. 

The house was not demolished, but it was left uninhabited, and soon it became obscured by springing green bushes.  

the Allée des tufs begins between the two lampposts on the left,
parts of the facade of Bernier's house appear on the right
as in April 2022

Bernier's decorated house fell into oblivion. When in the late 2020s inquiries were made about the site, the local tourist office did not know of its existence.

So, on the Facebook-page of the city in January 2021, on behalf of the tourist office, residents were asked whether they were familiar with the decorated house. This indeed produced positive responses, with remarks such as: I knew this house all my youth and It was a delight all these colors.

Apparently measures have been taken to give Bernier's house a place in society again. The photo below shows the situation in November 2022 (photo courtesy of Sonia Terhzaz)

Entry on the website Habitants-paysagistes (Lille Art Museum)
* Article (February 2021) in regional newspaper Le Parisien

Marcel Bernier, Decorated house
Rue Robert Schumann 77
Creil, dept Oise, region Hauts- de-France, France
house left uninhabited for over 30 years

May 12, 2023

Armando Tiso, Casa decorata / Decorated house

picture from Google Streetview

Dolo is a city in the northeast of Italy, located about 25 km west of Venice. From west to east the city is bisected by the Naviglio del Brenta (Brenta Canal), once a river but now a canal. 

South of the canal is the Via Brenta Bassa, a road with varied, alternating buildings, such as -about halfway along the road- a small block of three houses, of which the center house is lavishly decorated. 

this picture and the next five courtesy of Giada Carraro

Life and works

These decorations were made by Armando Tiso (1939-2021), who came to live in the house after he, while working as a sailor, was disqualified on medical grounds and had to continue living on a disability pension.

Being in his mid or late forties he wasn't one to go idle and so he found an occupation in decorating the interior and the exterior of his house. For this decorative work he used small pieces of ceramics, which he obtained by crushing all kinds of plates, cups and tiles that he bought at flea markets.

The above and below images give an idea of the colorful patterns Tiso created with those small pieces of ceramics.

It can also be seen that the decoration was not only realized with pieces of ceramics, but that other elements were also added, such as intact cups, bronze figurines, vases and urns, small black characters standing around a goblet or a shield and more of these types of additions.

Tiso not only decorated the interior of his house, but also the area along the street in front of the house and the backyard, overlooking the canal, were richly provided with all kinds of creations. 

Where the front gardens of the neighbors on the left and right are screened off from the street by an open iron fence, Tiso's front garden, as can be seen in the very first image, has a solid stone wall, with a wide top provided with a series of connected characters, including a number of soldiers who seem to be on guard.

The stone wall separating the garden from the street was itself richly decorated, this in such a way that part of the public street was taken up with creations.

The images in this article mainly show the decorations that can be seen from the street.

The relatively small backyard of the house, shown in the image below, apart from a rear door and a small window, is fully equipped with a voluminous ensemble of mostly decorations, an exposition largely shaped like a buffet.

A narrow green strip separates the backyard from the Brenta Canal.

backside of the house, along the canal

Armando Tiso passed away on September 16, 2021. Soon after this happened, a petition -also supported by some people living near Tiso's house- was sent to the mayor of Dolo, asking him to promote that the decorated house would be preserved as a museum. The mayor expressed interest and wrote that he would investigate the conditions and possibilities of preserving the site together with the competent authorities.

At the time of publication of this article, no further information was available on the internet about eventual decisionmaking with regard to the future of the site, but Google Streetview shows that in  June 2022 the decorations still existed.

* Entry on the website Costruttori di Babele
Article in regional newspaper Il Gazzettino (September 2021) following the death of Armando Tiso

Armando Tiso
Decorated house
via Brenta Bassa 63
30031 Dolo, Metropolitan City of Venice, Veneto region, Italy
can partly be seen from the road

May 05, 2023

Henri Dalpez, Maison et jardin décorés / Decorated house and garden

photos of the site by Bouvet Hubert published here with
permission of the 
Inventaire général du patrimoine Hauts de France

Henri Dalpez' decorated house and garden, depicted above, is located along a road just out Loos-en-Gohelle, a small town of some 7.000 inhabitants in the north of France, about 5 km north-west of the municipality of Lens, which has some 31.000 inhabitants.

The map below shows that Lens is located in the middle of an area referred to as Bassin Minier (Mining area) du Nord Pas-de-Calais.

screenshot from the video "le Bassin Minier Nord Pas de Calais
(YouTube, 2021, 5'13") by Lycée Saint-Cricq

The coal industry, begun in the 1850s, turned the landscape in this part of Northern France into an industrial area with many large buildings and installations of mining companies, many uniform residential areas set up to house miners and their families, and numerous high, hill-shaped mounds of industrial waste. 

In the 1980s coal mining was ended, which meant that the economy and employment of the area changed significantly and that many adjustments had to be made both on an individual and a collective level.

Life and works

Henri Delpaz was born in 1932. His parents had migrated from Spain to France, where his father had found work as an underground miner in Loos-en-Gohelle. The family lived in the house that Delpaz would later inherit and decorate.

In his early twenties Delpaz was drafted into military service to fight in France's war with Algeria (1954-1962). He then became an underground miner, and later established himself as an independent mason. 

It is not known in which years in particular he was in the military and worked as a bricklayer. But it has been reported that in 1959, when he was in his late twenties, he started decorating the house in Loos-en-Gohelle, where he meanwhile lived. It may be that at that age he was already working as a bricklayer.

the front side of the house, facing the street

Creating an art environment

The decorations in Dalpez' art environment include paintings on the exterior walls and small sculptures and other items in the area around the house.

The image above shows the entrance to the house, facing the street. The murals to the left and right of the window and the door show that Dalpez' work can be lighthearted, with pastoral scenes of animals in a green environment, probably in Africa, with zebras, lions and giraffes. The appearance of the lower part of the entrance door is in line with this.

The painting to the left of the door shows a tree trunk in front of a richly decorated shrub. 

It's a special feature of this art environment that the windows of the house became  part of Dalpez' creative project by filling these in with painted panels. In that way no one could see in, and vice versa, of course .....

The image above gives an impression of the decorations on the upper right side of the front wall of  the house. Compared to the other decorations on the front of the house, these are much less atmospheric and illustrative, especially the images of human characters.

The faces that Dalpez painted on the wall often have open mouths, which may be intended to express happiness or surprise. Near the faces are also some numbers, the meaning of which is unknown (a referral to addresses along the street where Dalpez lived?).

The image of a ship in choppy water, at the left, brings back something of the atmosphere that radiates from the front of the house.  Encased in a frame, it looks like a hung painting, but the image is painted directly onto the wall.

Another painted part of a side wall, as shown above, has because of the palms, the zebra and the foliage above, much more the atmosphere of the the lower part of the front wall at the entrance of the house.

The window in the middle is once more provided with a panel that closes the view. It is painted with two faces looking out through a grid of horizontal and vertical iron wires.

And once more there is a lady with an open mouth.

That open mouth, well, maybe Dalpez didn't have any explicit intention with it at all, maybe his way of designing was just how he saw people's faces.

This typical mouth is also present in a number of stand-alone sculptures which colorfully and rather expressive depict various personalities. With their lower bodies resting on a pole, they are arranged in the area around the house, one character guarding the mailbox.

Some sculptures have a number, but it is not known whether this refers to specific persons, just as there is no information available about who or what these sculptures could represent.

In June 2021, Sonia Terhzaz, a Paris-based author of a website with accounts of her visits and conversations with creators of art environments in France (see documentation) visited the site. 

Henri Dalpez, now 89 years old, said he had not maintained his creation for several years, and that in his opinion the paintwork was quite ugly as a result. He couldn't understand why someone would come all the way from Paris to see this work and have a conversation with him.

The view of Dalpez's house on Google streetview, dating from September 2022, at the bottom of this post, shows that the decorations have somewhat faded over the years, but that it is still possible to get an impression of the artworks.

An uncertain future

In correspondence with the Inventaire général du patrimoine, conducted in late April 2023, it is noted that Henri Dalpez's house is no longer inhabited. Searching the local press for more information on this unfortunately had no results.

There is also no mention of activities aimed at preserving the site. There is a good chance that the decorations and small sculptures will be lost.

Then all that remains is the memory of a colorful creation, as reflected for example in the image below.

* Article (2021), with a report of her visit to the site and meeting with Dalpez, by Sonia Terhzaz on her website Cartographie des Rocamberlus, 
* Article in  l'Inventaire général du patrimoine des Hauts-de-France  (general inventory of Hauts-de-France heritage)

Henri Dalpez
Decorated house and garden  
569 Chemin des Croisettes
62750 Loos-en-Gohelle, dept Pas-de-Calais, region Hauts-de-France, France
can be seen from the street
Google streetview (September 2022)

April 24, 2023

A new French website about art environments


In mid-April 2023, it was announced that a new website about art environments had appeared in France, called Cartographie des Rocamberlus. Le cartographie des environnements d'art singulier (Cartography of the Rocamberlus. The mapping of singular art environments)

This website is the crowning achievement of Sonia Terhzaz's work over the past ten years. She visited dozens of art environments in France to have a conversation, if possible, with the creator of the site, this in order to learn more about the backgrounds and intentions of the one who created the site. 

Many times her visit resulted in a conversation in which interviewees reflected candidly on their own insights and experiences, information that greatly benefits our knowledge of the field of art environments.

The above map (not operational here) shows the dozens of places, spread throughout France, where the sites visited by Sonia are located.

Sonia Terhzaz studied art at the Michel de Montaigne University in Bordeaux III, became a fine arts teacher, and worked at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bordeaux before becoming the manager of a cultural café in Paris, where she arranges musical, cultural and sporting events.

The interest in outsider art, which she developed in Bordeaux, gave her the idea of making an inventory of art environments, but then through meetings with the makers in order to gain more insight into their backgrounds.

picture from Sonia's Facebook account

In the photo above, Sonia is accompanied by Georges Maillard (1932-2022), creator of an art environment with creations of stacked stones, located in Osny, north-west of Paris. She met him in May 2020, was touched by his sweet and funny character and would often visit him until his death. 

Maillard is the one who used the expression Rocamberlus to indicate his art environment.

Here is the link to the new site: Cartographie des Rocamberlus

Enjoy your visit !

April 22, 2023

Andre Degorças, Le p’tit musée de Loulou / Loulou's little museum

this image (2022) and the next one from Google Maps

Genté is a community of some 900 inhabitants in the French department of Charente. Crossing this village along the departmental road D 148, one will at some point pass a courtyard, separated from the road by a fence of iron bars and richly filled with a variety of creations. This is the art environment of André Degorças, nicknamed Loulou.
Life and works

Degorças was born in Genté in the mid 1940s. In his youth he was interested in construction work and when he was six years old he already built a stone wall with earth as mortar. 

At the age of 17 he completed several months of apprenticeship as a bricklayer and stonemason. Then he worked for a number of years at a mason company in Toulouse, after which in the late 1960s at age 22 he settled as an independent artisan bricklayer in Genté. 

decorations on a wall along the courtyard

It is not known exactly in which year Degorças started making sculptures, but it was probably in the course of the 1970s, when he was well established as a mason in Genté.

The Lille Art Museum's Habitants-Paysagistes website has an entry on him with photos by Francis David, made in 1983 and 1989, of the sculptures Degorças had created and arranged around the house where he lived in the 1980s.  

this photo (1989) courtesy of Francis David 

The image above shows Degorças in the middle of two sculptures that are quite representative of the type of sculptures he made during that period, namely artisans, such as the man with the wine glasses on the left, and celebrities, such as the lady in the long white dress on the right.

At some point after the 1980s, André Degorças moved into the house with the yard along the D148. The image below shows four of the sculptures of the ensemble of the 1980s in their new housing. One recognizes the man with the wine glasses and the lady in the white dress. 

this image is a screenprint from the video 
in the documentation

The new location and the size of the courtyard probably inspired Degorças to further elaborate on the nature of the creations that could be situated there.

There are sculptures, even in large numbers, but they are made of white stone and for a large part small in size.

Animals are now also depicted, for example there is a mast topped with three huge winged ants. And snails are also among Degorças' favourites, such as the giant winged snail on a surfboard in the image below and the snail on the edge of a roof in the second image from above.

above left a winged snail on a surfboard
image from Google Maps

In his art environment, Degorças also expressed his passion for astronomy and extraterrestrial life, for example by making a wire mesh flying saucer, controlled by two stone alien characters.

A new feature of the site is a fresco that was still under development when in 2022 the very first image of this post appeared on Google Maps. The green area at the back center of this image represents a vineyard as found in the Charente. The intention is that it will include a bunch of grapes, a bottle of champagne, a harvester and other characteristic elements.

The next two images show Degorças in his studio. There are cupboards here, richly filled with small sculptures,

André Degorças enters his workshop
this image and the next one screenprints from
the video in the documentation

André Degorças' house is located in the French department of Charente in the Nouvelle-Acquitaine region. In the field of art environments it is assumed that artists who are active in this field have a relatively isolated existence. 

However, this is not the case for Degorças.

For example, he knew and visited Lucien Favreau (1912-1990), who decorated his garden and house in Yviers, also located in the department of Charente, 50 km south of Genté. He advised Favreau not to make the decorations on the wall of his house with ordinary paint, but with tinted cement solution.

Degorças also was visited by Gabriel Albert (1904-2000) and Franck Vriet (1931-2017), who knew each other well and lived about seven kilometers apart. In turn, Degorças visited Albert and Vriet's creations

Albert is known for his still existing sculpture garden in Nantillé, 34 km north of Genté. Vriet also decorated the space around his house with all kinds of sculptures, but most of these creations disappeared after his death. 

André Degorças at work

Article (August 2011) in regional newspaper Sud Ouest
* Article (March 2014) in regional newspaper Charente Libre
* Article (September 2014) once more in regional newspaper Sud Oust
* Entry on website Habitants-Paysagistes (Lille Art Museum)
* Website l'Inventaire of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region with an entry about creators of art environments in the region visiting each other

* Video by Vidéoguide Nouvelle-Aquitaine entitled The inspired by the roadsides, who are they?
(March 2023, YouTube), with scenes of Degorças' art environment from 2.40-2.50 and from 4.48-5.14

André Degorças
Le p'tit musée de Loulou
Rue de Reigniers 12
16130 Genté, dept Charente, region Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France
can be seen from the street