August 04, 2020

Efim Chestnyakov, Домашний музей/Home museum

part of an arrangement of some 800 items and figurines from clay, 
forming together the imaginary city of "Cordon" 
this photo and the next one  (from Livejournal) probably taken by Chestnyakov 

Efim Vasilyevich Chestnyakov (1874-1961) almost all his life lived in the tiny village of Shablovo in the Kostroma region of Russia, except for some years he was a teacher in other communities and a few years he had an art education in St Petersburg,

He was a complex artist, active in various artistic fields, such as photography, writing literary stories and fairy tales, making paintings, doing theater performances .... 

He also made large scale miniature scenes with figurines and structures from clay, as shown in the photo above and the one below. 

another part of the clay figurines, 

Life and works

Born on December 31, 1874 in a farmers family living in Shablovo, Chestnyakov at a young age already showed he had a talent for making drawings.

After his primary education, he followed from 1889-1894 a teacher training, to become a teacher (1894-1899) first in a village near the town of Kostroma, then in Kostroma itself and later in the village of Uglets near the town of Kineshma in the Kineshemsky district (Ivanovo oblast).

When Chestnyakov was a teacher in the Kineshemsky district (1896-1899),  he participated in the circle of local intelligentsia, he read books on philosophy and culture, drew a lot and painted watercolors. He also developed a passion for theater when in December 1897 in Kineshma a theater was opened.

At the end of the 20th century in rural Russia the Petruschka theater was in particular popular, a performance with marionettes and hand puppets, the main character being kind of a jester dressed in a red costume and sometimes with a long nose.

Later in his life the phenomenon of theater would be an important aspect of Chestnyakov's artistic activities.

portrait (around 1900) of Chestnyakov as a young man
picture from Livejournal

During Chestnyakov's stay in the Kineshemsky district his talent for drawing was noted and friends raised funds which enabled him to move to St Petersburg, where from 1900 he would take lessons. both in the workshop of a well-known professional painter and at an art academy.

In 1905, because of rebellions in Russia, the Academy closed and Chestnyakov -his education not yet completed- returned to his native village, where he settled in a small house, as pictured below.

picture from website
Chestnyakov's original house, built in the early 1900s

He was in his early 30s and his decision to return to his native village meant that prospects for a career as a professional painter would become less obvious.

It may be that he meanwhile had become aware that his artistic interest was much broader than just making paintings, and that this capacity, combined with his inner drive to contribute to a better future for people around, and especially children, could be better realized in a rural than in an urban setting.

Whatever this may be, the first quarter of the 20th century, was the period in Chestnyakov's life with the greatest artistic achievements, both in making paintings and in his other activities like doing theater performances, making clay figurines or writing books with fairy tales.

The miniature city 

Form a point of view of art environments, one of his various activities is very interesting, namely the making of a large collection of figurines of clay, which he started some years after his return to Shablovo.

Some 800 of these figurines, together with other small items, were combined into an ensemble that depicted a city named Cordon. It is a city with houses, palaces and streets, inhabited by children and adults.

The ensemble, situated in Chestnyakov's house, as such ranks as a work of art and can be referred to as an art environment in the category miniature constructions and scenes. Moreover, given the lavish decoration of the walls of his house with paintings, Chestnyakov's interior can also be seen as an art environment, but then in the category decorated interiors. .

Today this ensemble of clay figurines doesn't exist anymore; just some forty clay items have been left.
picture of Chestnyakov's house, from website rusmir-media
the house, a copy of the original house, now is a museum

After another period in St. Petersburg
Chestnyakov settled in Shablovo for the rest of his life

From 1913 until 1914 Chestnyakov once more stayed for some months in St. Petersburg, this time to get lessons from prof Kardovsky. But then the first World War began and Chestnyakov, who had been rejected for military service, returned to his home in Shablovo. 

He would now stay in Shablovo for the rest of his life (1914-1961), focusing on the daily life of the inhabitants of the region, and without any relation with institutes and other artists in the Russian art world.

Chestnyakov remained active as a painter, showing a certain preference for rural and peasant life, depicting local people, often gathered in large groups and in settings with a specific atmosphere that characterizes his paintings.

He did not want to sell his paintings but kept them in his house, usually not framed, but nailed on battens. Sometimes he would give a painting to people living around.

The various pictures below of the interior of Chestnyakov's (in 2004 rebuilt) house, give some impression of his paintings. 

this picture and the next one 
screenprints from the March 2019 video

Chestnyakov transformed the ground floor of the house into kind of a theater, where he had performances and amused the children of the village with fairy tales, which he mostly wrote himself and which also have been published (such as The Magic Apple, a collection of fairy tales, illustrated with his own drawings, published in 1914).

In his performances in the theater his paintings could function as scenery, just as his clay figures could act as puppets.

The ground floor of his house could also serve as a Kindergarten for village children whose parents had to work.

The various elements of Chestnyakov's artistic and social activities were interrelated and ultimately formed a large coherent whole. An intelligent, selfless, well-educated man, Chestnyakov saw the poverty and deprivation of the villagers, and wanted to contribute, in particular, to a better future for the children. He dreamed of a City of General Prosperity, where everyone was happy. 
the cupboard has a small selection of clay figurines

In the 1930s, Chestnyakov -at that time in his mid 50's- finished creating paintings. He continued to give his performances, also in neighboring villages that he visited with a cart full of attributes, including some paintings as decor.

Chestnyakov died on June 27, 1961 He was in his late 80's. Villagers carried the coffin to the cemetery four kilometers away in the neighboring village of Ileshevo, where Chestnyakov was buried in a simple grave, just decorated with an iron cross.

Discovery of Chestnyakov's paintings

Seven years later, in the summer of 1968 employees of the regional museum in Kostroma (some 350 km west of Shablovo) visited the Kologriv district, looking for unknown artists. An inhabitant of Shablovo informed them about Chestnyakov's legacy. which was left to waste in the now uninhabited house. 

For the museum its was a historical discovery. 

A number of the paintings was restored and added to the collection of the regional museum. The Museum of Local Lore in Kologriv, a town some 18 km south of Shablovo, also got a part of the paintings. 

 this picture and the next one 
screenprints from the December 2019 video

In the following years, the village began to depopulate as residents moved to neighboring towns. Today, the former village still has about ten houses.

Chestnyakov's house became a House Museum

Chestnyakov's house survived as it was during his lifetime, until in 2002 an initiative group started collecting donations for its renovation. In 2004 the House Museum opened, in 2008 it formally became a subsection of the Museum of Local Lore in Kologriv

Attempts have been made to maintain the atmosphere of the original building as much as possible with the help of paintings and other parts of the former establishment that were still available. 

Various (former) residents of the village who owned artwork by Chestnyakov, also cooperated by making these items available to redecorate the museum.

The museum got its own administrator.  In the 2010s there were discussions about the position of the Museum due to the recast of administrative  arrangements in the region, but -as the videos below show- in 2019 the Museum was in full operation, lectures were held and thematic exhibitions and festivals took place.

* Article in Wikipedia
Thesis by Igor Sergeevich Shavarinsky, Театр Ефима Честнякова как культурный феномен: к проблеме синтетической природы творчества и его восприятия (Theater of Efim Chestnyakov as a phenomenon of culture: the problem of the synthetic nature of creativity and its reception. Thesis for an academic degree in cultural studies. Ivanovo, 2016
* Website about the artist, with a biography, a gallery of pictures and texts of some fairy tales
* Article (August 2007) on LiveJournal about  the museum in Kologriv, with information about and pictures of artwork by Chestnyakov (and by Ladyzhensky)
* Article (undated) by Andrey Anokha about Chestnyakov as a photographer on website Starina44
* Article (April 2019) The Russian soul of Efim Chestnyakov on website Rusmir-media
* Article on Wikipedia about Chestnyakov's painting City of General Prosperity

* Short video with an aerial view of the (former) village of Shablovo, with some shots of the exterior and the interior of Chestnyakov's house (YouTube, March 2019, 2'39")

* Video of a meeting in the Museum at the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the birth of E.V. Chestnyakov. in two parts (Part 1, YouTube, 5'47", December 19, 2019)

Part 2 (9'16", YouTube, December 19, 2019)

thanks to Alexander Emelyanov who alerted me to Chestnyakov

Effin Vasilyevich Chestnyakov
Home Museum
Shablovo, region Kostroma, Russia
the museum can be visited

July 27, 2020

Marcel Baudouin, Musée de plein air du Castel Maraîchin/Open-air museum of Castel Maraîchin

© Cliché Boutain - Propriété Mairie Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie 
all postcards in this post: courtesy of the
 Réseau d’Archives et de Documentation de l’Oralité (RADdO)

The old postcards in this post show the panels that in the 1920s were mounted on fences and exterior walls of a house, locally known as Castle Maraîchin, in the then municipality of Croix-de-Vie in the French Vendée area.

Life and works

Marcel Baudouin, who made and fixed these panels, was born in Croix-de-Vie on November 15, 1860 in a well-to-do family that lived in that Castle Maraîchin. His father was a public works contractor.

© Mairie de Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, Ed Boutain - Cliché Boutain, Croix-de-Vie

After his primary education Baudouin went to the lyceum in La Roche sur Yon, followed by a study of medicine, first in Nantes, later from 1883 in Paris. Graduated, he worked in hospitals in Paris, represented France at international medical conferences and published articles for medical journals.

In his late thirties Baudouin for two years (1896-1898) was mayor of La Barre des Monts, a small community on the Vendée coast. Then he tried to get into national politics, but a candidacy for the House of Representatives failed, and he decided to take another turn.

This time he opted for the world of archaeology. In 1903 Baudouin, in his early forties, got in charge of the archaeological excavations in the Vendée, appointed in this function by the Ministry of Fine Arts with the approval of the General Council of the Vendée. This was the subject that would fascinate him for the rest of his life.

© Mairie de Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, Ed Vassellier-Planchet - 
Phototypie Vassellier, Nantes - Collection Planchet

In his new capacity as an archaeologist, he took part in and reported about many investigations and excavations, especially regarding the locations in the Vendée.

He examined the megaliths that still existed in the Vendée area, tracing signs engraved in those megaliths, which he interpreted as a referral to the configuration of the stars in neolithic times. He also reported about finding indications for a relationship between the Vendée and Atlantis.

Baudouin wrote many articles in archaeological journals, but he did not only address colleagues, he also wanted the general public to share in the knowledge that he and his colleagues collected.

Creating a open air museum

With regard to the latter, he proposed in 1920 to create a prehistoric open-air museum in Paris. It should be a wall in public space, fifty meters long and about three meters high, with a series of panels documenting the discoveries. However, the Paris authorities were not interested.

© Mairie de Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, Ed Boutain - Cliché Boutain, Croix-de-Vie

But Baudouin was convinced that exhibiting on a public wall was a much better way to reach the general public than the way museums used, mostly exhibiting their prehistoric collections in boring showcases in dimly lit rooms.

So he decided to create such a wall- museum himself, using the fences an exterior walls of Castel Maraîchin as exhibition space.

Starting in 1920 it would take him fourteen years to complete the Museum which includes dozens of cement panels containing both texts and casts of scientific and prehistoric objects.

In order to organize the information to be shown, Baudouin used the in his day most common classification of scientific knowledge, namely 1. Philosophy, 2. Religion, 3. Law and Economy, 
4. Philology, 5. Pure Sciences, 6. Applied sciences, 7. Fine Arts, 8. Literature, 9. History and 
10. General.

© Mairie de Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, Ed Boutain - Cliché Boutain, Croix-de-Vie

Using this general classification, the open-air exposition of pre-historic items was ordered as 
follows: Religion is mainly represented by prehistoric religions, Law and Economy by folklore, Philology by a genealogical tree, Pure science is subdivided in Anthropology and Prehistory (57), Botany (58) and Zoology (59). Applied Sciences are represented by Medicine (61), Fine Arts are represented by prehistoric sculptures, engravings, paintings. etc., Literature by medallions of literati and History by a genealogical tree and numerous specimens of painted coats of arms (93).

The above information is taken from an article that Baudouin published in the magazine La terre et la vie (see documentation) in 1935, a year after he considered the creation of his Open-air Museum as completed.

In the closing words of the article, Baudouin adds that he realizes that his creation may not stand the test of time, adding "But I hope my walls, covered and armored with premium cement panels, will last just as much as the dry brick walls of old Chaldea or Troy ..."  

This would prove to be too hopeful.

Baudouin's grave
picture by Selbymay, licensed under
Creative Commons

Marcel Baudouin died in Castel Maraîchin, January 25, 1941, aged 81. He was buried in the cemetery of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, his grave decorated with the Menhir de la Tonelle, originally located in Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez (Vendée).

In 1969 Chateau Marachaîn was sold by a family member of Baudouin. The decorations were removed, the house was emptied, the many documents and photos left behind were distributed among the archives of the Vendée department and a regional museum. 

* Marcel Baudouin, "Une creation originale. Un musée en plein air" in: La terre et la vie (1935 nr 4), available as PDF (In this article Baudouin provides an explanation of the establishment and composition of the entire collection of panels) 
* Un Barrien érudit de son temps (1860-1941) (An erudite Barrien of his time (1860-1941)), brochure published in the context of an exhibition about Marcel Baudouin, Bibliothèque La Boussole, la Barre de Monts (19/10-19/12/2018)
* A series of postcards on the website of the Réseau d’Archives et de Documentation de l’Oralité 
Website with a series of postcards of the decorations

Marcel Baudouin
Open-air museum of Castel Marachaîn
formerly 43 Avenue de la Liberté
Croix-de-Vie, dept. Vendée, region Pays de la Loire, France
site doesn't exist anymore

July 18, 2020

Tony Hillier, Histon Sculpture Park

all pictures (July 2010) courtesy of Graham Kerr, Flickr

Above pictured art environment in the front yard of a house in the vicinity of the English city of Cambridge could not only be seen from the street, but passers-by could easily enter it because for that purpose the residents of the house had deliberately removed a small hedge between the street and the garden.

sculpture of a dog

Life and works

Tony Hillier, who created this art environment, was born in Birmingham in the early 1940s. After his primary education he got a state scholarship to study at Trinity College in Cambridge. After some years he moved to Selwyn College where he ended up as a lecturer of physiology.

In 1968 he married and Joan and Tony would be together for 46 years, until at age 72 Tony died in November 2014, after in December 2013 he got a stroke from which he never recovered.

details of Hillier's sculptures, above at the left a dog, at the right a male face

Creating a sculpture garden

In 1999 when he was in his late fifties, Tony Hillier retired early from his job at Selwyn College. 

Now he had more time to be creative. 

He had always made paintings, about which almost nothing has been published so far. It was first mentioned by Joan Hillier in an interview she had in 2020 in the context of the Keepersproject (see documentation). 

After retiring, Hillier initially focused on making bamboo and paper mache creations (now mostly lost), but then switched to making sheet metal sculptures, an activity that would largely determine the last part of his life.

Hillier made his sculptures from pieces of sheet steel that he welded together in the form he envisioned. His first sculpture started as a cat, then while working turned into a tiger, to end up as a lion. 

The lion was given a place in the front garden and stood there alone for some time, but not for long, because Hillier turned out to be a diligent worker and the lion soon got company of other sculptures, mainly depictions of animals, people and fairy-tale characters.

father, son and dog 

And so the front yard of Tony and Joan's home in Histon, a village just north of Cambridge, gradually turned into an art environment, a site often referred to as Histon Sculpture Park.

Dominated by a giraffe, tall 22 feet (6.7 meters), the garden includes dogs, owls, pigs, lions, tigers, vultures and some human characters, mostly displayed stand alone, but occasionally also in groups, as in the scene above that (most likely) depicts a father, a son and a dog.

This scene also shows that Hillier's work often has a caricatured slant, such as the boy's large head and narrow neck, and the man's bulky nose and lavish peaked cap. Other sculptures also show that some features are emphasized more strongly, such as feet, eyes and lips.

another dog

The sculptures also have a cartoonist character to indicate that one does not have to view them reverently, but can simply deal with them.

Thus, children were allowed to climb a large sculpture of a pig, with the record being 11 children at a time ....

And climbing was also the case for a 8 feet (2.4 meter) high sculpture of a horse, and not just for kids, because the photographer who took the photos in this post, at Hillier's insistence had to climb the horse and sit in the saddle before he could leave.

character with a big nose

Although Hillier never wanted to sell his sculptures, he not only made sculptures to decorate the garden, but he also liked to make sculptures to donate to public institutions in the area, especially those institutions concerned with young people or education, like schools and public libraries.

For example, there is a report of a donation to a school in Cambourne due to its tenth anniversary. In September 2009 at the school a man-sized sculpture was revealed of a girl sitting on a chair with a dog looking at the floor with a cockerel and a pig.

a pig

After Tony Hillier died in November 2014, his wife Joan continued to care for the sculpture garden.

In March 2020, Joan announced publicly that in the spirit of her late husband, the sculptures would be given away to public institutions interested in placing them in their location.

A teacher at a primary school in Hardwick responded immediately and obtained three sculptures for the school as well as for the village of Hardwick.

* On the internet there is still a reference to the personal website of Tony Hillier; however, this site is no longer available
* In July 2020 a new website was published, entitled The Keepersproject, about people who are engaged in keeping art environments in the UK. The site documents Hillier's Sculpture Garden with a series of pictures and has an interview with Joan Hillier, an interview in which (for the first time) Hillier's paintings are mentioned
* On Gramho a series of pictures of the garden (2019)
On weblog By Stargoose And Hanglands (January 2018) a short article about the site, with a series of pictures
* Article (October 2014) on BBC Cambridgeshire

Tony Hillier
Histon Sculpture Park
99 Cottenham Road 
CB24 9ET  Histon, Cambridge, dept Cambridgeshire, region East of England, UK
site can be seen and freely entered from the road

July 07, 2020

Charles Palmer, Teddy Bear Garden

picture by unknown photographer
from website

Although above depicted English art environment with reportedly 300 teddy bears made of cement, disappeared years ago, the house to which the site belonged is currently (2020) still referred to as Teddy Bear Cottage, as can be seen in the screenprint below.

screenprint of the website of real estate agent On The Market
advertising the Teddy Bear Cottage an object to rent

Life and works

The house, located on 14 Church Street in the town of Bradford-on-Avon, not far from Bristol, in the Wiltshire region in the south-west of England, was bought in 1935 by Charles Edmund Palmer, who was born in 1883 or 1884. 

The internet hasn't much biographic information about him. He had a job with British Railways as a line inspector, his wife was Harriet Isabelle Palmer, the couple lived in Bath in the early 1940s, but when because of the war their house was destroyed , they moved in 1942 to the house in Bradford-on-Avon.

Creating a Teddy Bear Garden

After Mr Palmer retired, probably in the late 1940s, he developed a hobby of making teddy bears out of cement, which he grouped together in the garden belonging to the house. Thus arose in the 1950s and 1960s an art environment with hundreds of teddy bears, a site that became known as the Teddy Bear Garden.

British Pathé in 1961 made a film (now a video 1'25" on YouTube) that shows Mr Palmer at work.

The video shows how Mr Palmer puts the cement in a mold and processes it into a bear shape, which is whitewashed after drying. 

The sculptures generally have the same appearance, sitting with arms forward, sometimes standing with arms raised. The setup is simple, in a circle, sitting in a row at a table, and sometimes attributes are added, such as a book or a cane. Occasionally a specific scene is depicted, such as a schoolmaster bear teaching some student bears.

As is often the case with art environments. it is the overall picture of the hundreds of white sculptures that gives the site its specific appearance, which in this case is further enhanced by the sloping surface of the installation.

In the 1950s and 1960s the site attracted visitors, mainly from the immediate vicinity.

The end of the Teddy Bear Garden

After Charles Palmer and his wife had died (it's not clear when), their house was for sale. In the 1970s it became part of the office and laboratory of the St Ivel dairying company, which at that time settled in different buildings on Church Street. In the mid 1990s the company left the location and it is likely that he firm in the approximately twenty years it was on Church Street, hasn't cared for the bear garden.

At the time of the departure of the company an employee took four bears with her, because she assumed that the  site would be demolished. The new residents of 14 Church Street have restored seven bears. And maybe other people also have acquired some bears.

Its quite possible that the remaining teddy bears were so battered that demolition of the garden was inevitable.

So some of the site's items may still exist, but the Teddy Bear Garden as such is history.

Charles Edmund Palmer
Teddy Bear Garden
14 Church Street
Bradford-on-Avon, county Wiltshire, region South-West England,  England, UK
site doesn't exist anymore

July 01, 2020

Sergey Bondarenko, Муsей "Kop'ya Krevskogo Zamka" / Museum "Replica of Krevo Castle"

this picture (2018) and the next five
courtesy of Sergey Bondarenko

For many years, nothing indicated that Sergey Bondarenko, who in his young years liked to make paintings and drawings and later made small wooden, metal or ceramic creations he sold on markets, would become the creator of a life-size singular architecture, a 1:10 scale replica of a centuries-old castle. 

But then, in 2016 the inhabitants of the village of Chukhni in Belarus saw this happen.

October 2019

Life and works

Born in Arkhangelsk, in the far north of Russia, Bondarenko after his primary education entered military service, lived for a while in St. Petersburg and then in Svetlogorsk, where he met his future wife Marina. In 1986, the couple moved to Smorgon in Belarus, where Sergey worked for five years as a designer of posters, banners and the like at a tractor factory, while Marina had an administrative position at that factory.

In the early 1990s the couple started selling selfmade artistic products, such as clay figurines and  pendants with stones and amulets, at markets and festivals in Lithuania and Poland, and even in Moscow.

 May 2020

After their two daughters had left home, the couple wanted to leave the city and in 2013 they moved to the village of Chukhni, a few kilometers from Krevo, north-west of Minsk. Due to its history and centuries old castle, now a ruin, this village attracts tourists who might be potential buyers of artful creations.

Once established in the village, Bondarenko came up with an idea that would largely determine his further life. He decided to make a life-size replica 1:10 of Krevo Castle near Chukhni as it was in former times. The project is a combination of a tribute to the past, the pleasure of creating a special creation and making money to live on.

Creating a replica

It took the necessary consultation with the local authorities, but Bondarenko got the permit to realize the intended construction (incidentally not on the spot he had in mind, because the authorities preferred the area around his house).

The construction had to become a building with towers and ramparts surrounding an inner court with an area of approximately 80 square meters.

summer 2019

Work started in 2016, the first tower was completed in the summer, the second in the autumn of that year. The largest tower is 5 meters high 

The outer walls of the towers and of the ramparts have been made of concrete to which homemade small brick particles of clay are attached, as can be seen in above picture. Using a mold Bondarenko makes these stones of clay which he takes in a nearby quarry.

In the courtyard cast metal knights with a height of 20 centimeters will appear, probably in the capacity of a complete army. An example of those characters can be seen in the third photo from above.

picture made in 2020

The grounds surrounding the castle are enclosed with an iron fence containing horseshoes. The decorative creations also include shield-shaped decorations, as shown in the photo above.

There is a plan to construct a circular labyrinth on the grounds round the house. Its design is already available.

an aerial view of the castle under construction
 June 2020

* Website of Museum Replica of Krevo Castle, (pictures, information about opening hours, etc.)
* Article (November 2017) on the website of newspaper Belarus Today
* Article (August 2018) on the website of newspaper Zviazda 
* Article (December 2019) on the website of newspaper News Tut, with a map and information about the actual development of the village of Chukhny
* Article (June 2020) on the website of newspaper Realt Onliner, with a variety of recent pictures of the site
* Account of the site on YouTube
* Video by TV Belarus24 (August 2018, YouTube, 26'12")

* Video by Sergey Bondarenko on Facebook (0'40", June 2018), a view of the site from the street

Sergey Bondarenko
Museum "Replica of Krevo Castle"  
House nr 43
Chukhni, Belarus
visitors welcome / artful items for sale

June 24, 2020

Antonín Lehečka, Železné království/Iron Kingdom

 this picture (2015) and the next five by Miloš Lehečka
licensed under Wikimedia Commons

The picture above shows the entrance of a forge (Kovár means blacksmith) in the small village of Hradiště in the south-west of the Czech Republic. The local blacksmith transformed the area around house and workshop into an art environment that mainly included miniature iron creations, a site consequently often referred to as Iron Kingdom.

Life and works

Antonín Lehečka (1903-1978). the blacksmith in question, was born in Vienna.

After his primary education, he worked for twelve years on a collective farm, where he learned professional craftsmanship from experienced blacksmiths.

Then, in the 1930s, Lehečka settled as a blacksmith in Hradiště, mainly oriented towards supporting farms, first with shoeing the hooves of horses, later with maintenance and repair of agricultural implements.

At some moment in his professional life as a blacksmith, he decided to use the remains of the material he incorporated in his work as a basis for items to decorate the space around house and workshop.

The internet has only limited information about Lehečka's life and work, so there are no data about the year in which the construction of this art environment started. It is possible that in addition to the busy job he had as a blacksmith, as early as the 1930s and 1940s he already made items,  this in connection with the assumption that - as usually in the field of art environments - the majority of his work was realized at a later age, in the 1950s and 60s.

Lehečka's creative production has a distinct, recognizable character, especially as regards the castle-like structures with their slender, pointed towers, often provided with circular platforms with battlements.

The structures formed from steel plate, often arranged in coherent configurations and situated on supporting metal, wooden or stone elements, are graced by gnomes and other (fairy) characters.

In addition, there are self-contained items, such as houses, but also high-rising metal uprights with a specific presentation at the top. An example is the kinetic creation of a wheel with blades driven by a character in black clothes, as can be seen in action in the beginning of the video (see documentation).

Another example is the pole on the left in the picture above  This is a reminder of a historic event in 1945 when at the end of the second world war Russian and American soldiers met in Hradiště.

The inscription on the shield says: "Here, on May 9, 1945, an American soldier met a Russian soldier and shook his hand "

Antonín Lehečka died in 1978.

After his death, his son Miloš took on the task of taking care of the maintenance of the site, that contains some fifty distinct creations, which -as the photos and the video show- are still in good condition nowadays. Because Milos now is getting older it becomes increasingly difficult to continue the maintenance.

* As mentioned earlier, the internet has only limited information about Lehečka's life and work. The main source is an article on the municipal website of Hradiště, which in addition to the text, has a series of photographs provided by the family.
* Video by Pavel Konečný (2020, 7'00", Facebook)

Antonín Lehečka
Iron Kingdom
33544 Hradiště, region Pilsen, Czech Republic
can be seen from the road

June 14, 2020

Kyösti Iitti, Enkelipuisto/Angel Park

the entrance of the park
pictures (May 2019) courtesy of Raija Kallioinen

Located in the wooded area around Riihikoski, a small hamlet in the south west of Finland, there is an art environment with a variety of metal sculptures:  Kyösti Iitti's Angel Park. 

Kyösti Iitti 

Life and works

Born June 8, 1948, Kyösti Iitti after his primary education first had a job as a woodworker and later got a training at a shipyard in Turku, some 40 km south-east of Riihikoski, where he then worked for about ten years as a welder and sheet metal worker.

Because of problems he had with asthma he had to find another job, and so in 1988 he became a massage therapist, a job he had until 2007. In that year, in his late fifties, he had to retire early due to problems with his back.

Once retired, he and his wife settled permanently on the grounds in the woods, where the couple had a summer cottage and where later his art environment would develop.

Adam and Eve with the snake 
tempting them to eat the "forbidden fruit."

Iitti began making iron sculptures in 1985.

His first metal creation was a postman on a bicycle loaded not just with mailbags, but also with a mobile letterbox, a sculpture that was installed at the premises of the summer cottage. 

Other sculptures followed, and in 1988 the collection as it had been formed until then was opened to the public. Incidentally, Iitti was reluctant to publicize the site and there are also no signposts pointing to its location.

In the early 1990s Iitti transformed part of the area around the house into a half-acre lake, which became a distinct image-defining element of the site.

The sculptures are partly arranged around this lake, and partly in the adjacent 5 ha forest. Currently (2020) the collection includes some fifty sculptures.

Iitti makes his sculptures from recycled material, using shiny sheet steel, iron chains or other metal objects.

Just a many other creators of art environments, he does not work on the basis of pre-made sketches, but he is guided by the shape and characteristics of the material he has available.

The site is named after an angel that dominates the entrance gate of the park. This angel pays homage to a brother of Iitti who died at a young age

Iitti's sculptures often make a robust impression and they are usually man-height, and in some cases even more extensive.

There are various depictions of animals, such as the deer named Oskar, the bear with the name Karhu made of welded chains, an eagle, a large fish consisting of an iron tail attached to a large piece of stone excavated during the making of the lake ....

There are sculptures of humans, a weightlifter, a skeletal type, a carnival figure, a long-haired beauty on a rock..... There are  ornamental elements, the lake  includes a is a burst of creativity in iron and stainless steel.

And then there also is a marked life-size structure made of fifteen boilers, cut open and welded together, covering a stage where (music) performances take place.

Another eye-catching life-size item of this art environment is the UFO-like structure rising up on  iron supports, overlooking the lake.

This structure, purchased by Iitti in the early 1990s, is named Futuro House. It was conceived in 1968 by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen as as a quick to assemble and disassemble housing made of polyester plastic reinforced with fiberglass. A number of these Futuro Houses have been sold, but the concept as such has not been widely accepted.

* Weblog of the park (2010-2017), with a variety of pictures
* Facebook (unofficial page)
* Article (January 2017) on website Etlehti
* Article (in German) Der Engelpark von Pöytyä on website Mietoinen Finnland
* Video (June 2016, YouTube, 1'52") by Maaseudun Tulevaisus

* Video (September 2018, YouTube, 22'44") by Coyotefilmfi

Kyösti Iitti
Enkelipuisto (Angel Park)
Kaitoonmäentie 200
21870 Riihikoski, Pöytyä, region Southwest Finland, Finland
can be visited on appointment