November 20, 2020

Laurent Mercier, Chateau dominant la haute vallée de la Monne / Castle dominating the upper Monne valley

pictures are screenprints from the video in the documentation

In the early Middle Ages the European countryside had Donjons, fortified residential towers. These buildings developed into Castles by adding walls and buildings. and such sites were often equipped with round towers with battlements. 

Both donjons and castles were not only intended to resist the enemy, but also to dominate the environment, not just the landscape, but especially the workers and peasants living around.

In the field of art environments it occasionally happens that someone feels inspired to build such a donjon or castle. Such a building is not meant to control the surrounding area, but to express the feelings the creation entails, such as memories and appreciation of building methods in earlier times, performing an act against contemporary architecture, or simply the urge to build something beautiful.

Consider the story of Gregorius Halman, who single-handedly built a castle in the Frisian countryside in the Netherlands, or experience what motivated Didier Lobert when he (also single-handedly) built a donjon in Saint-Germain-sur-Avre in Normandy, France.

Looking at the image above, the depicted building, as it stands in the green landscape, appears to have been built mainly because of its beautiful appearance. It's dominating the environment in a peaceful, decorative way.

Life and works

The building in question is a single-handedly built creation by Laurent Mercier, located in the small hamlet Mareuge, part of the municipality of Vernet-Sainte-Marguerite, in the heart of the volcano rich area near Clermont Ferrand in France (Parc des Volcans d'Auvergne).

Mercier, about whom the internet hasn't biographic information, started building the castle in 2013, a project he would devote all his free time to. 

Interviewed by regional television in September 2020, he said he believed he would need three more years to complete the project.

Although Mercier uses contemporary materials, he makes every effort to do this in such a way that an atmosphere of earlier times is created. For example, floors haven't been made of poured concrete, but of tiles that have been shaped one by one by hand.

The same goes for the vaults. These were made according to the same principles as in earlier times, first the arches were made and between them blocks of cement were arranged in such a way that they appear to be stones.

The fact that Mercier decided to build a vault says something about his motivation with regard to constructing the tower. A vault cannot be seen from the outside, so he could also have made a a less laborious foundation to support the tower. 

But in an interview he said: A castle without a vault, that was not conceivable, which indicates that his creation was based on appreciation of building methods in earlier times.

The tower was completed in the summer of 2020.

When around 2023 the building will be completed in its entirety, Mercier intends to use it as a gite.

Now that it is clearly visible that this building is a castle, more interested visitors come along, most of whom show appreciation for the project. Regional newspapers and TV also showed their interest. 

Until now the castle has no name. The designation Castle dominating the upper Monne valley ¹ is fictitious and only indicates its location.

* Article (September 2020) in newspaper The Epoch Times
* Article (September 2020) on the website of France 3, ed Puy-de-Dôme 
* Video by France 3 TV Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (September 2020, YouTube, 2'22")


¹  The Monne is an approximately 35 km long river that has its source in the Puy-de-Dôme, near the \Col de la Croix-Morand, above the hamlet of Mareuge and flows into the Veyre river.

Laurent Mercier
63710 Hameau de Mareuge, 
Le Vernet-Sainte-Marguerite, dept Puy-de-Dôme, region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France
can be seen from the road

November 11, 2020

Twelfth anniversary of this blog


Bonjour aux promeneurs, Hello walkers
picture of a sculpture by Fernand Châtelain
courtesy of Marcello 13 (Flickr)

Today, November 11th, 2020, this blog has existed for twelve years and it now includes descriptions of some 500 art environments in Europe. As in previous years I will relate here data (as of November 10 and 11) about numbers/origin of visitors and about most viewed art environments.

Number of visitors

On November 10th, 2020 the all time number of visitors was 890.062. On November 10th, 2019 it was 819.622, so there is an increase of 70.440 visitors, or on the average 193 visitors a day. 
Over the period 2018-2019 the average was 175 visitors a day.

All time page views by country

As in previous years here is the all time rank of top ten countries as regards page-views (as on November 10):

  1. United States 295.000 (rank 2019 idem)
  2. Netherlands  86.900 (rank 2019 idem
  3. France 78.200 (rank 2019 idem)
  4. Germany 61.300 (rank 2019 idem)
  5. United Kingdom 59.700 (rank 2019 idem) 
  6. Italy 33.400 (rank 2019 was 7) 
  7. Russia 32.900 (rank 2019 was 6) 
  8. Ukraine 23.700 (rank 2019 idem) 
  9. Spain 16.300 (rank 2019 idem) 
10. Poland 6.240 (rank 2019 idem) 

The top ten list includes the same countries as in 2019, almost in the same order, except Italy and Russia which changed places. Italy is still on the rise: 9 in 2017, 8 in 2018, 7 in 2019, 6 in 2020.

Once more the interest from Ukraine and Poland in Eastern Europe and Russia is lasting.

Most viewed sites all time
These are the sites with the most all time views (as on November 10th):

  1.  Bill and Elisabeth Charge, UK, Shell garden, 6364    
  2.  Robert Garcet, Belgium, Tour Eben-Ezer, 5585     
  3.  Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, France, Palais Idéal, 5028
  4.  Jose Maria Garrido, Spain, Shell decorated interior, 4938
  5.  Robert Tatin, France, Singular architecture, 4579
  6.  Bodan Litnianski, France, Decorated garden, 4531
  7.  Chomo, France, Préludian art, 4160
  8.  Abbé Fouré, France, Sculpted rocks, 3760
  9.  Francisco Grajera, Spain, Decorated house, 3754
10.  Joseph Pujiula i Vila, Spain, Labyrinth, 3637

The first place for Bill and Elisabeth Charge has to do with a one time event. In October 2016 the husband of a granddaughter of Bill and Elisabeth posted a message on the Watford Memories and History page on Facebook, asking -with a link to the relevant post in this blog- if anyone remembered the sculpture garden, that was demolished by the housing company soon after Elisabeth had died.

Thousands of people did remember the site and this resulted in over 5000 hits of the post in a few days time, which meanwhile has grown to over 6300, a number that no other site has been able to surpass until now. 

For the rest, the top ten list continues to include the same names as those of previous years, compared to 2018 almost in the same order: Robert Garcet from Belgium. Facteur Cheval, Robert Tatin, Bodan Litnianski, Abbé Fouré and Chomo from France and José Maria Garrido, Francisco Grajera and Joseph Pujiula from Spain.

Russia and Eastern Europe

In the autumn of 2014 I began paying special attention to tracing art environments in Eastern Europe and in the European part of Russia (the area west of the Urals). In particular in Russia until now I found some 50 sites that so far mostly were unknown in the Western-European field of art environments.

Here is an overview of sites in Russia with an all time number of visitors above 1000:

1. Alexander Emelyanov, Architectures, sculptures, 2485
2. Alexander Ladogina, Singular decorated architecture, 2045
3. Sergey Kirillov, Decorated house, 1859
4. Yevgeny Malakhin (also known as Bukashkin), Paint the garbage, 1685
5. Petr Zhurilenko, Sculpture garden, 1672
6. Egor Utrobin, Sculpture garden, 1294
7. Collective of conscripts of Teykovo, Scattered sculptures, 1267

The art environments in Eastern European countries in general are already better known in Western Europe. Here is an overview of sites in the Czech Republic, Poland and Ukraine with an all time number of visitors above 1500:

1. Frantisek Rink, Czech Republic, Ossuary, 2697
2. Victor Levy, Czech Republic, Sculpted rocks, 2634
3. Bogdan Ziętek, Poland, Interior with sculptures, 2486
4. Stanislav Sartsevich, Ukraine, Sculpture garden, 2154
5. Nicholas Golovan, Ukraine, Decorated house, 2115
6. Felicija Curylova, Poland, Decorated house, 1772
7. Boguslav Iwanovskiego, Poland, Sculpture garden, 1712

Of course, above listings are just meant to give an idea of the focus of the visitors who visit this blog. 

November 04, 2020

Maurice Lellouche, Le petit musée/The small museum

 part of Lellouche's "Petit Musée" as in 1989
picture by Bruno Montpied, from his weblog

Champigny-sur-Marne, a municipality with around 78.000 inhabitants, is a suburb of Paris located south-east of the capital. In the 1970s/80s this community was home to an art environment, that now (2020) is in disrepair, with probably only a few remnants remaining.

The site was located at the Rue Diderot and its creator Marcel Lellouche (born in 1908), had designated it as Le Petit Musée (the small museum).

When in May 2018 Google Streetview drove past the Rue Diderot, this yielded below image of the entrance of the Petit Musée: a concrete wall with closed corrugated iron doors, located in the middle of urban high-rise buildings.

The concrete wall appears to be provided with a (difficult to recognize) decoration and with some effort the text Le petit musée can be distinguished

Behind the corrugated iron doors there is an elongated plot of land, divided into a courtyard at the front where meanwhile a large tree has sprouted and a rear part with a house where Lellouche lived. 

Life and works

Lellouche in his working life was a retailer in fruit and vegetables. 

He probably used the elongated plot of land as a space for the storage of his merchandise and as a place to park his van and other utensils that he needed to carry out his trade as a retailer and market merchant.

this picture and the next five courtesy of ©️Francis David;
from the website Habitants Paysagistes (Lille Art Museum)

Retired in 1970, when he was in his early sixties, Lellouche began transforming the site into an art environment. 

This art environment can broadly be characterized by three elements: 
- a variety of mosaics from small stones attached to the walls,
- freestanding, mostly mosaic structures and  
- a number of texts added to the walls.

The picture above shows Lellouche in front of some of his wall decorations, such as flowers in vases and a sailing ship, these combined with some fragments of texts. 

The site included a number of comparable wall decorations, such as depictions of a soldier and various African characters.

Another wall decoration can be seen on the right of above picture, where the blue, white and red of the French flag is depicted in combination with an inscription reading Dieu protège la France (God protects France).

The left part of the image shows an arch of honor constructed by Lellouche, presumably in honor of the lady whose name, Marie-Genevieve, is on the arch but about whom no further information is available.

On top of the arch there are four letters that together form the sign მ  I მ  I . It's not clear what this means. One could interpret this as DIDI, but then again it is not clear to whom this refers

It is also tempting to interpret the combination of letters as GIGI, since elsewhere in this art environment an inscription to a a circular wall has this word. As shown in the picture above, the inscription says Heureux anniversaire à notre chére roman Gigi Les Bêtes (Happy birthday to our dear novel Gigi Les Bêtes). 

Gigi is a famous book (1944) by French author Colette (1873-1954), a book that was not only adapted into a play, but also into two films and a musical. She also wrote two books with Bêtes in the title.

On the wall depicted in above picture, the name Claudie has been added. It's unclear to whom this refers. 

However, there is more clarity about the ship that is also depicted. This must be a replica of the SS France, with its 316 meter the longest ship in the world at its time, built on a yard in Saint-Nazaire and put into service in February 1962.

This replica is one of the freestanding creations of this art environment.

Another freestanding mosaic creation is the large owl, as in above picture.

Other freestanding items that decorated the site included a some three meter high replica of a windmill and a horse pulling a hearse.

To conclude this overview of the creations in Lellouche's art environment, let's quote some of the texts he added to the walls. 

There is a text that reads On est pas des pneus, mais il faut que l'on crève quand même (We are not tires, but we have to die anyway).  

Another one,  partially visible in the picture with Lellouche standing in front of a sailing ship, says "Quinou" Je les offre á Maman et a ma chère mémé  ("Quinou" I offer these  to Mom and to my dear Grandma)

And finally, depicted in the picture above, there is a quote at the top of an otherwise empty piece of wall rising above a planter with green plants, which says: Ici le decor est beau, mais l'ennui est grand  (The decor here is beautiful, but the boredom is great). 

It's a sigh that may say something about Lellouche's state of mind. He was a tormented person indeed, and when receiving visitors he could sometimes confuse them.

Lellouche continued to work on the decorations until around 1989, when he was in his early 80s. 

It is not known when he died.

The site has been almost completely lost

Nowadays hardly anything has remained of this art environment. The free-standing structures have disappeared, just as the arch with the inscription Marie-Genevieve. There are just some remnants of the bas-reliefs and the inscriptions on the wall, although very damaged,

* The site has a review in Bruno Montpied's extensive inventory of French art environments Le gazouillis des éléphants, Paris (Ed. du Sandre), 2017. -926 p
* Short review and a series of photos by Francis  David on the website Habitants-Paysagistes (Lille Art Museum)

Maurice Lellouche
Le petit musée
63 rue Diderot 
Champigny-sur-Marne, dept Val-de-Marne, region Île-de-France, France
the site is in decay, no visits

October 30, 2020

Mikhail Brylunov, Сад скульптур "Диверия" / Sculpture garden "Diveria"

pictures courtesy of Marina Chebotaeva

The wooden sculpture pictured above is part of a variety of wooden sculptures exposed in the exterior area of a house that is located in the small Ural hamlet Sabik, a village with about 600 inhabitants, part of the municipality of Shalinsky in the Sverdlovsk region, Russia.

Life and works

The wooden creations have been made by self-taught artist Mikhail Brylunov, who was born in Sabik in 1954. 

After elementary school he started working as a machinist and woodworker at a local company. Married with Svetlana, the couple would get two children
Brylunov in his workshop
Brylunov in his workshop 

In 1996. when he was in his early 40s, Brylunov started making wooden sculptures.

In his work he pays a lot of attention to mythological characters, who -since they are timeless- often are depicted without distinctive clothing. 

He also depicted many non-mythical people naked, which in the beginning of his activities led to incomprehension or anger of villagers, but which as he received respect and recognition from both regional and national professional art critics, has turned into appreciation and pride.

Striking about Brylunov's work is that several of his sculptures of people are life-size or larger, sometimes three meters high, a quality he manages to achieve by working long trunks of trees.

This also relates to tree stumps that are still rooted in the ground, as in the picture above. showing a young woman sculpted into a meters high tree of which the branches are still partly present.

With regard to the mythological side of his work, Brylunov is in particular interested in the mythology of the indigenous peoples of the Urals. 

He can tell enthusiastically about the mythical land of Diveria, a land of craftsmen, located under the Ural mountains, known only to the initiated and invisible to most people. 

His art environment also is referred to as Diveria.

The eye-catcher of this site, pictured in the photo at the very top of this post, is a three meter long sculpture made from a 200 year old pine tree, easily visible from the road, that depicts the god Sabik, after whom Brylunov's home village is named.    

Sab means master or judgeka means soul of a person, mortality. So Sabik or Sabika is the master of the souls, as Brylunov has explained. 

Brylunov also makes sculptures to order. 

For example, in 2014 in a park in the village of Monetny near Yekaterinburg, a three-meter-high sculpture made by him was unveiled, depicting the Russian prince Alexander Nevsky, with helmet and armor, who in 1240 defeated the Swedes.

For a couple of years already Brylunov's son collaborates in the creation of sculptures,

* An early article (September 2002) in newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda
* A later article (January 2013) in newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda
* Article (April 2019) by Marina Chebotaeva on website Nashural, with a series of pictures

* Video by the Chusova River Heritage Association (November 2019, YouTube, 9'09")

* Video by MagistrStar (July 2020, YouTube, 5'27")

Mikhail Brylunov
Sculpture garden Diveria
Hamlet Sabik in the municipality of Salinsky, Sverdlovsk region, Russia 
can be seen from the street, visitors welcome

October 26, 2020

Anne and Brian Bailey, Shell decorated garden grotto

this picture (2014) courtesy of 
regional newspaper Express & Star

The picture above shows part of a shell decorated garden grotto that is located in a private garden in the community of Compton, a suburb of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands in England.

Life and works

This art environment was created by Anne Bailey, born in the late 1940s, who was a social worker and her husband Brian Bailey, born in the early 1950s, who was an accountant. Both got retired around 2009.

In 1990 they had moved into the house in Compton.

the sun presides over fire and water
this picture and the next ones from the 
Facebookpage of the Baileys "Garden of surprises"

At the time they settled in this house, the garden at its backside mainly was a grassy area with some conifers. 

The Baileys decided to transform the area into a real garden in the English landscaping tradition. It would become a project on which they for the coming decades would work with diligence and passion. Currently (2020) they have been engaged with their garden for about 28 years

Around 2010 the planting of the garden had reached such maturity that the Baileys could join the National Garden Scheme, where private gardens are opened up for the public to visit. They gave the garden familiarity with the name Garden of surprises

light and day

Creating a shell decorated grotto

In 2008 Anne and Brian Bailey started creating the shell grotto. When in 2010 the garden for the first time opened to the public, two walls of the grotto were ready. The project would be completed three years later. So all in all, applying the shell decorations took some five years.

The structure that has been transformed into a grotto was an old bunker. Added to the garden in 1939 it was meant to serve as a shelter during the Second World War. The entrance is currently hidden behind the Gothic summer house that was built by the Baileys around 2015.

darkness and night

The shells incorporated in the decorations of the Grotto were collected during trips to the seaside. Friends and acquaintances would participate in collecting shells. 

The decorations also include a number of purchased shells, especially the rarer ones, which cannot be found on England's beaches.

Designing the arrangement of the shells was mainly Anne's work. Inspiration was gained from visits to shell caves elsewhere. The underlying idea of the entire design is the concept of earth, water, fire and air as developed in medieval times.

More about the decorations

Entering the cave the visitor faces the Green Man who is depicted amidst sprouting flowers and plants (earth) in a larger scene that depicts the waves of the sea (water)

the Green Man on the panel 
that represents earth and water

The Green Man is a centuries-old spirit of nature, which symbolizes human dependence on and unity with nature, this in relation with creative power and rebirth, especially when it comes to the revival of nature in spring. That is why the Green Man is often depicted with a face surrounded by leaves or even with foliage growing from its head.

In European countries, and certainly in England, a mostly wooden or stone sculpture of a green man adorns a number of old churches and other buildings.

The small wall left of the entrance, depicted in the second picture from above, has the sun (fire) with a rainbow, moons and stars (air)

Seen from the entrance, the wall on the left has the theme of darkness and night, which is represented by a multitude of dark-blue tinted shells interspersed with six large, silvery-colored shells that as it were bring light into the darkness.

The wall on the right side depicts the theme of light and day by means of winding rows of colourful, mainly red and yellow-colored shells on a light background. 

the ceiling

The ceiling has red-, yellow- and white colored shells, including a series composed of Coquilles Saint Jacques, added to the ceiling in a circular arrangement.

Just before entering the grotto as such, there is a small corridor with a wall with a high-relief sculpture of a man with a sumptuous hairdo, as in above picture, a depiction of the old man of the sea who guards the grotto. 

Winter 2016/2017 the shell grotto suffered from the cold and a lot of shells crashed unto the floor, Fortunately, the sketches with the way of applying the shells had been preserved, which allowed that the grotto could be restored into its original state

The summer house

The building pictured above was constructed by Brian Bailey in the winter of 2012/2013. It's located just in front of the shelter that includes the decorated grotto and it serves as a summer house, a quite place to retreat and enjoy the view on the garden. 

The structure was mede of black and white wood, it has stained glass windows, the wall opposite the entrance is decorated with a frescoe and the interior has elegant wooden furniture. The rear wall has a window that gives a view of the Grotto.


This summer house, also referred to as the Gothic retreat, was featured on British TV in a program entitled Amazing Spaces. It got a reward as Shed of the Year 2014 .

In 2015, Anne and Brian Bailey won the first prize in the national garden competition organized by the Daily Mail newspaper

* The Garden of surprises on Facebook
* Article (May 2014) in regional journal Express & Star (includes the photo at the very top of this post)
* Article (June 2018) in newspaper Daily Mail
Video (1'03") of the Garden of Surprise as available on the Facebook page of the Garden of surprises

Anne and Brian Bailey
Shell decorated garden grotto
(in the Garden of Surprises)
19 Waterdale, Compton Wolverhampton WV3 9DY
region West-Midlands, England, United Kingdom
can be visited on open days

October 10, 2020

Oleksiy Bondarenko, Скульптури навколо прикрашеного будинку / Sculptures around decorated house

all images showing parts of the art environment
are screen prints of the videos (see documentation)

The sculpture of a rearing horse pictured above is located in an art environment in the small village of Runguri with about 2500 inhabitants (2010), located in the southwest of Ukraine near the city of Kolomyia.

Runguri, together with other villages in the area, is part of a united territorial community with Pechenizhyn as its main town.

Life and works

This art environment was created by Oleksiy Bondarenko, who was born in Pechenizhyn, probably in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

Bondarenko worked for 35 years as a decorator at a large furniture factory in Pechenizhyn. In 1995 the factory was privatized and it went bankrupt in 2013.

Around 1995 Bondarenko left the factory and everything indicates that he  was retired. 

He moved from Pechenizhyn to Runguri, where he settled in a house with a ground floor and an upper space. And then he apparently had enough free time to convert the outdoor area of the house, which was initially swampy, into a garden. 

But the best indication is, that at that time as a self-taught artist he started to make sculptures, an activity about which there are no reports that he was making such creations before.

The picture above and the one below show how Bondarenko decorated the exterior of his new house with sculptures and other decorative items.

Bondarenko made an extensive number of sculptures

The sculptures Bondarenko made to decorate the house represent only a small part of the very extensive number of creations he would produce from the mid-1990s. 

These sculptures are partly situated in the garden at the house, and partly they also ended up with interested private persons or institutions.

picture from touristic website I go to world

The photo above shows an example of a sculpture in an institution's collection. It is a statue in front of the Alex Dovbusha Museum in Pechenizhyn, depicting Dovbusha, leader of an independence movement in the area, active in the late 1730s.

When creating the sculptures, Bondarenko first makes an infrastructure of iron wire and mesh, which he covers with a mixture of cement, sand, liquid glass, glue and the moisture-resistant agent ceresit. In addition to this high level of Bondarenko's technique, he showed himself to be a fast worker. For example, to make a life-sized sculpture of a horse he just needs some four days

A garden with a variety of life-size sculptures

The creations in Bondarenko's garden include sculptures of all kinds of animals,  (historical) persons as well as ensembles and installations.

Bondarenko's sculptures have a strikingly realistic appearance. 

This can be seen in the life-size depictions of the animals, such as the horses in various poses and the oxen pulling a cart, and the many creations he made from other animals, such as a group of white swans on a rotating device, a lion, a peacock  a deer, a hare, and so on. 

And the realistic appearance is also present in the portrayals of persons. 

In this regard Bondarenko has said: "You must also know the anatomy of animals and people, so that the figures do not lose their proportions. We must also not forget the details of costumes and facial expressions. When I sculpt historical characters, I carefully study their portraits"

In a number of his sculptures Bondarenko portrayed persons from various ethnic groups living in Ukraine, such as the Cossacks (he made a sculpture that has been placed on the island of Khortytsya in the Djnepr river, an island which is said to be the cradle of the Zaporozhian Cossacks) and also the Hutsuls, an ethnic group of Ukrainian pastoral highlanders inhabiting the Hutsul region in the Carpathian Mountains, distinguished by their colorful, richly ornamented folk dress

But in his sculptures of persons Bodarenko also depicted well known Ukrainian politicians, musicians businessmen and other persons, the various characters often being arranged into ensembles.

There are also ensembles that are set up in a specifically secluded part of the site, such as a the scene below with sculptures of a woman (probably the virgin Mary), a young girl  and a shepherd (?) arranged in a chapel-like structure with an angel in the foreground, a scene probably representing the annunciation of the Holy Virgin.

Finally, this art environment also includes some hand-built devices that testify to Bondarenko's technical skills, such as windmills, merry-go-rounds and special swings.

The decorated garden attracts many visitors, adults as well as children, but also bridal couples who come to take photo sessions amidst the sculptures and the play equipment.

* Article (May 2017) on the website of Dzerkalo Media, with a series of pictures
* Article May2017) on website Firtka
* Short article (October 2, 2020) on website Kurs, with the video of October 1, 2020, shared below 
* Video (3'10", October 1, 2020, YouTube, ) by regional public TV NTK-Channel

* Video (2020, YouTube, 31'08"), also by regional public TV NTK-Channel, entitled History of a village: Runguri, with various scenes of life in the community of Runguri, Bondarenko and his site being presented from 17'51" -  19'20"

Oleksiy Bondarenko
Sculptures around decorated house
Runguri,  Kolomyia district, Ivano-Frankivsk region, Ukraine
visitors welcome

September 28, 2020

Robert Bretin, Jardin avec sculptures grandeur nature de gens de paille / Garden with life-size representations of people of straw

 all pictures (around 2017)
courtesy of Sophie Lepetit, from her weblog

Located in the south-west of France, some 45 km east of Bordeaux, the community of Les Peintures is home to an art environment in the capacity of a garden decorated with  life-size depictions of people in all kinds of situations in daily life.

Life and works

This garden, situated along the departmental road D674 that crosses Les Peintures, was begun in the early 1990s by Robert Bretin, a retired mason, about whom the internet has no further biographic information.

Bretin became inspired to make such creations because of a tradition that originated in the community of Campan, in the French Pyrenees, where life-size dolls -in Occitan called mounaques- were placed along the roads in the summer, a tradition that has now spread to many villages in the area of the Hautes-Pyrénées.

For example, in Boussan, a village of 200 inhabitants, three times in summer there is a exuberant display of groups of mounaques made by numerous residents. representing events with a daily or festive character, such as a baker at work or a family celebrating a wedding.

The bodies of these life size creations are traditionally made of straw and dressed with discarded garments. 

Bretin also made his creations from straw, dressing them with second hand clothes he regularly bought or was offered by acquaintances.

The accessories of the straw people may depend on the time of the year, taking into account days such as Easter, Halloween, the French National Day (Storming the Bastille) on July 14, Armistice Day (End of WWI) on November 11 and Christmas.

The faces of the creations seem to consist partly of commercial masks, partly they appear to come from shop-window dolls from earlier times, especially those with hairdos. The available documentation doesn't have information about this.

Bretin has arranged the creations in his garden in a cozy way. People can be seen sitting around a table enjoying a meal, a child is swinging, someone is catching a fish, people are talking or walking together.... 

* Article (December 2011) in regional newspaper Sud Ouest
* Posts (March 20 and 21, 2018) on the weblog of Sophie Lepetit, general impression and detailed pictures

Robert Bretin
Sculpture garden
18 lieu dit Champ du Mil
33230 Les Peintures, dept Gironde, region Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France
the garden, located along the departmental road D674 that crosses
the village can be seen from the street