September 16, 2020

Alcide Teynac, Les Grottes du Luc / The Caves of Luc

exterior of the caves with pond and garden
postcards licensed under Wikimedia Commons,
the photos on all postcards have been made by Marcel Delboy (1882-1941)

Espiet is a small community with currently some 800 inhabitants, located in the south-west of France, about 30 km east of Bordeaux. 

Fallen into oblivion over the years, in the first decades of the 20th century the community featured a self-made complex of decorated caves called Les grottes du Luc (The Caves of Luc). 

Life and work

The complex of caves was built from cement between 1904 and 1928 by Alcide Teynac. The internet has no information about the dates of birth or death of this self-taught artist. But it has been reported that he lived in Espiet, was a beekeeper by profession, loved to compose songs in his spare time and wrote a book, self-published in 1927, entitled Isabeau de Curton.

And he also worked for around thirty years on the construction of a complex of decorated caves.

With regard to this creation the main source of information  is a series of postcards dating from the early years of the 20th century. So here we go.....

The first postcard, at the top of this post, gives a general impression of the place where the caves were located: a pond flanked by a series of structures, which may have housed the caves, all situated 200 meters from the railway station of Espiet ¹. 

In the photo above there is not much to distinguish apart from the rocky structures, but the caption on the map suggests that this is the entrance to the cave system. It is mentioned that there is a secret door that connects the entrance to another room, a door that will open on command

And the caption also refers to a menhir, a dolmen, a chair (or a pulpit) and a rock, but it is not clear whether these items were part of the entrance area or were situated elsewhere in the caves.

The photo above shows that Alcide Teynac also added sculptures to the interior of the caves. This is a natural-sized representation of a prehistoric family carved in bas-relief. This piece of rock can also rotate and then provides access to the next space.

The caption on above postcard says that here the Gothic door is depicted. It probably gives entrance to the room of stalactites, bisons and other animals, incised or painted.

On the postcard above, the explanatory text is difficult to read, but it says that this is a representation of:  
"Aquarium, the door closed by a rock opens to the floor, descent by a staircase carved in the rock, the Pendelogue, the Virgin, Boudha, the Devil's Tower, the Theater of Nature, the stalactites and the stone draperies, the secret closet" ......

Well then, that is a large series of all kinds of creations, which, moreover, are practically not distinguishable in the postcard.

This enumeration of creations, together with the creations mentioned in the other postcards, indicates that Teynac with his Grottes du Luc has delivered a piece of work that deserves a place in the field of art environments.

For now, however, it can only be concluded that this is far from the case, because the internet neither  has referrals to informative articles about the Caves, nor information that could be used to compile a coherent description of the site.
The data about this creation are so scarce that it has not become known what became of the >Grottes after the death of their creator.

* One of the few scholarly remarks on the internet about Teynac is in: 
Veronique Moulinié, D’une architecture à l’autre : Les habitants paysagistes et le Musée d’Art Moderne de Lille-Métropole, à Villeneuve d’Ascq (2010) (Programme interdisciplinaire de recherche Art, architecture, paysage Sessions 2004 et 2005) Alcide Teynac is referred to as follows:
"En Gironde, entre 1904 et 1928, Alcide Teynac construisit des grottes artificielles, pur chef-d’œuvre de ciment, dont il orna les murs d’une vision très personnelle de la préhistoire, art pariétal et équipement de chasse compris". (In Gironde, between 1904 and 1928, Alcide Teynac built artificial caves, a pure masterpiece of cement, the walls of which he adorned with a very personal vision of prehistory, cave art and hunting equipment).

¹ The railway line that was served by the station, in 1954 has been disbanded and the building now houses a restaurant. 

Alcide Teynac
Grottes de Luc
Espiet, dept Gironde, region Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France
there is no informatie available about
the fate of the site after its author died

September 10, 2020

József Balogh, Zdobený dom / Decorated House

facade of the house 
(pictures published here in agreement with Georgó Fülöp) 

The picture above shows the decorated facade of a house in the small village of Pribenik, located in the south-east of Slovakia, near the borders of this country with both Hungary and Ukraine. In the past the village has also been part of alternately Hungary or Ukraine and currently many inhabitants still have a Hungarian origin.

Life and works 

The decorations of the house, meanwhile removed, were added by József Balogh, who was born on January 3, 1920 in a peasant family in Vojka, some 12 km north-west of Pribenik,

In October 1941, at age 21, he was enlisted to the Hungarian army. Deployed in the war fought by Germany and allies against Russia, he ended up in a Russian prisoner of war camp.

After the war Balogh settled in Pribenik, where he became the local shoemaker. He married and his wife Margit and he had four children, two of whom would die at a young age.

Balogh was a sturdy man, with long hair, who made his own clothes and, if it suited him, was dressed in shorts, a way of doing most villagers did not understand much about.

the roof in detail

Around 1978 the villagers would be even more surprised. Balogh was in his late fifties, the two children had left home and he started to decorate the house,  a project he would be engaged with for the next decades.

Roaming the region by bicycle, he collected all kinds of discarded items, such as bicycle wheels, dolls, plastic bottles, windmills and other finds, which he attached to the sloping front part of the roof of the house, as can be seen in the picture above

 detail of the facade 
As the picture above shows,  the wall at the front of the house, under the roof, was partly decorated with small semicircular mosaics directly under the eaves, and furthermore with larger square mosaics between the windows. which in turn were provided with colorful curtains.

Balogh used broken pottery, old pieces of porcelain and colored glass for his mosaics.

The square surfaces on the wall at the front of the house seem to have included mosaics with a mainly decorative look, geometrically ordered abstract configurations.

But Balogh also made mosaics with a more narrative character and more or less recognizable characters, such as in the image above, in which a fish can be seen as well as an animal that could be a two-headed bird.

The picture above shows that the two-headed bird and the fish are depicted in the context of a larger mosaic that might represent an elephant.

Balogh has remained active in updating his creation until old age. In 2008, when he was at the age of 88, the regional newspaper Novy Cas (see documentation) visited Balogh and reported that in the previous year he had once more adjusted the facade and the fence of his house.

The newspaper also reported that Balogh's health was deteriorating. 

He died in 2009

The house with the decorations has been demolished

After Balogh's death his property, that included two buildings, was sold and the new owner demolished the house with the decorations. 

In the following years Balogh's art environment gradually fell into oblivion.

This probably would have remained so, if not in the course of 2019 Gergó Fülöp, who as a young boy lived in Pribenik and in the 1990s on his way to school passed Balogh's decorated house, decided to take action to keep the memory of Balogh's creation alive and to give the site a place in the field of art environments. 

Fülöp, who had become an artist running an exhibition space, organized an exhibition (January-March 2020) in his art gallery in Budapest and wrote an article that in April 2020 was published on the Polish website PrzeKrój (see documentation).

Recently Raw Vision also reported about this development. 

Exposition in Budapest in 2020 

As said, from January until March 2020 the art-gallery Kavics (Pebble, in English) in Budapest, managed by Georgó Fülöp, had an exhibition about József Balogh entitled Práci Mesterúr (Work of a master!).  

Thinking back to what he had experienced in his early years passing Balogh's decorated house, Gergó Fülöp in the course of 2019 realized that József Balogh represented a breath of fresh air. 

As he noted: 
"This man had very few material riches and at times went through hardships, yet he did not pursue wealth or fame through his works. József was able to see value in things that weren’t valued by others; he was able to find fulfillment, precisely because he focused on those small pleasures that brought him joy. At a time when it might feel like the world is collapsing, perhaps we can all learn something from József and seek solace in simplicity'  (quote from Fülöp's article The Humble Poet, see documentation)

Indeed, that is why it is so satisfying to add Balogh's creation to the inventory of art environments this weblog is

* Article (April 2008) in newspaper Nový Cas (with a series of pictures)
* Article by Georgó Fülöp, "The Humble Poet. A Local Cobbler's Folk Art", on website PrzeKrój (April 28, 2020)
* Introduction to and a series of photos of Balogh's work, a document on Georgó Fülöp's website, edited in the context of the exposition early 2020 
* The website of the municipality of Pribenik has a photo gallery with pictures of the site
* Documentary film Balogh József, Pribenik 66 (16'08", 1996) by Peter Kerekes, Martin Kollár and Marek Šulík (on Vimeo)

József Balogh 
Decorated house
Pribenik 66

September 03, 2020

Albert Diekmann, Replik im Vorgarten / Replicas in front yard

replica of Neuschwanstein Castle (Schwangau, Germany)
pictures: screenprints from the video
(see documentation)

The picture above shows a replica of the famous Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, as it can be seen in the front yard of a house in the small village of Abbensen, part of the municipality of Wedermark, located north of the German city of Hannover.

This replica and eleven others, all located in the front yard, were created by Albert Diekmann.

Life and works

Diekmann was born in the early 1940s and worked in an office job with the German Railways, a job he retired from in the late 1990s. 

The beginning of his activity as creator of an art environment was in the year 1998, when his wife received a scale model of a castle as a present for the garden. The model was made of a kind of cardboard and Diekmann thought that if small stones were added, the model would be more realistic and better protected against influences of the weather.

replicas of the Eiffel Tower in Paris 
and the Big Ben in London

Diekmann got to work on this and was so enthusiastic about this type of activity that he then started working on his first replica.

In 1999 this piece of work, a grandfather clock, was completed and -somewhat hidden- it is still standing in the front garden. For the next twenty years or so, Diekmann would focus entirely on making relatively large-scale replicas of famous buildings in Germany and elsewhere in the world. 

The front yard currently (2020) includes twenty creations, including Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Big Ben in London and the Washington Capitol, all depicted in this post. There are also replicas of the Johannis Chapel, which is near Diekmann's house, and of the Water Tower in Lehrte, 17 km east of Hannover.

A few years ago, due to his age, Diekmann decided not to make any new creations, but to focus on the maintenance of the site. In August 2020 the site got a lot of publicity in regional newspapers and TV.

A labor-intensive and time-consuming activity

For the various parts of a creation Diekmann made wooden molds, which were provided with iron wire mats for strength. To these molds a layer of a few centimeters of poured concrete was added, which then had to harden for a few weeks before the different elements could be merged.

To give an example, here is how the construction of the replica of Neuschwanstein went. 

As there are no construction drawings of this structure available, Diekmann used a 3D jigsaw puzzle as a guide. Establishing that the highest part of the building should be around 1.80 meter high, he could then determine the different dimensions of the composing parts of the structure, such as the towers and the various individual buildings that make up the complex.

All in all, the construction of this replica took him almost a year,

the Capitol in Washington

Diekmann has apparently tried to render the various buildings as realistic as possible. For example, the Big Ben is equipped with the necessary dials that also indicate the correct time. The Eiffel Tower also has an authentic look, although the replica is not made from iron, but from concrete slabs. 

The various creations are each individually constructed to scale, the scale of each structure probably being determined by what for Diekmann was a workable height. This might explain why the replicas of the Eiffel Tower and of the Big Ben have almost the same height, when in reality the Eiffel Tower is three times as high.

* Article (August 2015) in regional journal Hannoversche Allgemeine
* Article (August 2020) on the website of broadcasting company NDR1 Niedersachsen, with a series of pictures of the site
* Article (August 2020) in regional journal Süddeutsche Zeitung
* Article (August 2020) on the website of RTL Germany
* Video by (2020, 5'45". Daily Motion)

Albert Diekmann
Replicas in front garden
Alte Zollstrasse
Abbensen, municipality of Wedemark, Lower Saxony, Germany
the site can be seen from the street

August 28, 2020

Lubomir Votava, Dům a zahrada zdobené panenkami / House and garden decorated with dolls

pictures courtesy of Justyna Orlovska from her website
"Off the Beaten Track"

In the field of art environments in Europe, there are some sites with a decoration mainly composed of dolls, such as those of Francis Barale (France), Daina Kučere (Latvia) and Margarita Travkina (Russia). This small group of creations can be complemented by a site in the Czech Republic curated by Lubomira Votava.

Life and works

Votava was born in the early 1960s in Havlíčkův Brod, a town in the Vysočina region of the Czech Republic.

Initially he worked as a tractor driver. In 1989 he attended a rally of the Republican Party, often referred to as extreme right and represented in the Czech parliament from 1992-1998. Votava joined that party, working his way up to become an advisor and bodyguard to the party's leader.

In that capacity, Votava gained notoriety for some incidents, like he punched an opponent with his fists. Later he was convicted for being violent against a journalist, after which he left the world of politics and in 1998 retired to the small village of Rváčov, also located in the Vysočina region.

Votava settled in Rváčov in a simple house, built around 1870, initially inhabited by his grandparents and thereafter used by his parents as a summer home.

Rváčov was now in his late thirties and living on his own. Away from the urban hustle and bustle of Prague, Votava now focused on the quiet rural life in the village.

Especially pleased with the garden located between the cottage and the main road that crosses the village, he spent a lot of time maintaining it. He built a pond with his own hands and from ten kilometers away, in a wheelbarrow he carried  a large amount of stones into the garden, some of these stones being three feet high

As a result, in 2016 the garden was reviewed in the Czechian magazine Chatar Chalupář, a practice-oriented monthly magazine about housing and lifestyle.

But what would make him known, both in the village and beyond, was not the composition of garden, but the special way in which he provided house and garden with decorations.

From his early years a lover of old toys and discarded dolls, he started to decorate interior and exterior especially with dolls, which he obtained from people around who wanted to get rid of them, which he found in trash cans or which sometimes were just left behind by people, deposited at the garden's entrance.

About a thousand dolls cover the outer wall of the house and are attached to the branches of trees in the garden.

Varied reactions

His way of decorating house and garden, which is visible from the main road that runs through the village, has led to varied reactions among the residents, both appreciation and disgust or fear.

Votava has said he doesn't exhibit the dolls to scare passers-by. He wants to prevent them from ending up in the garbage and being destroyed. He has explained that for him dolls are a medium from which energy passes. Looking at some dolls he sees in their eyes the child that played with them many years ago.

This train of thought is reflected in most arrangements of the dolls, as demonstrated in the pictures above.

But an arrangement like the one in the photo above, in which dolls -partly without a head- are suspended from a rope around their necks, arouses less sweet associations.

So in presenting both the lovely and the harshness, this art environment shows an ambiguity. It is not clear if this ambiguity is intended or unintentional, but in any case it can confuse a potential visitor.

* Article (November 2014) on the website of TN Nova, with a short video and a serie of pictures
* Series of photos with explanation (December 2015) on website Off the Beaten Track, edited by Justyna Orlovska
* Detailed impression of the site in wintertime (November 2015, YouTube, 14'35")

* Video by Vladimír Havlíček (July 2019, YouTube, 3'57") with Votava talking about the collection

Lubomir Votava
House and garden decorated with dolls
Rváčov, Vysočina region, Czech Republic
can be seen from the road

August 15, 2020

Antoine Paucard, Musée des sculptures / Museum of sculptures

all pictures (2015) courtesy of Sébastien Colpin
from his website

In Saint-Salvadour, a commune of a few hundred inhabitants in the Corrèze area in central France, there is a small museum that exhibits granite sculptures created by Antoine Paucard, a retired mason who was born in that village and lived there most of his life.

Life and works

The son of one of the last millers in the community, Paucard was born on December 5, 1886. After his primary education, which he completed in 1897, he did not follow any further courses, but went to work.

Initially he probably had jobs in or around the village, but in August 1906 he joined the French army, becoming part of a unit based in Africa, the Regiment 3 of the African Hunters (Chasseurs d'Afrique). Paucard left the army in 1909 after an accident in which he lost an eye due to a horse kick. 

He stayed in Paris for some time and then returned to his native village to start working as a farmer.  

In 1915 Paucard married Françoise Cérézat. The couple would have a son and a daughter.

After World War I he became a mason, a job that in this period was important because of the post-war reconstruction. Sometimes alternated with farming, Paucard would continue working as a mason until his retirement in the late 1940s/early 1950s.

As a mason Paucard in particular focused upon building houses, and it has been reported that his predilection to express in a notebook what was on his mind, entailed that each completed house was celebrated with a song included in one of the 120 notebooks he filled between 1930 and 1975, scriptures that became part of his legacy.

Paucard has also manifested himself politically. In 1930 he joined the Communist Party. In 1933 he made a trip to the USSR, from where he returned disappointed. The book in which he explained this, Un mois en Russie, par un paysan de la Corrèze (A month in Russia, by a peasant from Corrèze), 1934, subsequently led to his break with the party.

During the Second World War, Paucard joined the French resistance and after the war he was mayor of Saint-Salvadour for a year.

In the early 1950s, now retired, he became somewhat disillusioned with politics, and he began to devote himself to making sculptures.

Creating a collection of sculptures

All together Paucard has created about thirty granite sculptures. As the pictures in this post show, these sculptures mostly portray people. 

To indicate what kind of persons it concerns: the sculptures include famous French personalities, such as Charlemagne (= Charles the Great), Napoléon, Richelieu, the generals Margueritte and Nivelle, known from World War I.  There is a sculpture of Saint Salvadour who also names the village.

And then there are portrayals of people from his family circle such as his father and his grandmother and sculptures that depict colleagues from his time as a soldier with the Chasseurs d'Afrique.

To conclude this small overview, it can be noted that Paucard has also portrayed himself. The image directly above shows two people, of whom the one on the right must be Paucard, while the one on the left is a friend named Roger Cronnier.

A special aspect of Paucard's artwork is that many sculptures are provided with inscriptions that explain the scene, sometimes in poetic form, like he also made creations with only text, as aphorisms or philosophical expressions.

Just a single example: in the image above, the text surrounding the globe and the text covered by the stone below read in French: De cette misère la Terre et de sa création, quels en sont le Mystère et ..... surtout  le Destin? ....... Pas le néant sans doute, car il n'est qu'un Non-sens ¹

In English: Of this misery the Earth and its creation, what are the Mystery and ..... especially the Destiny? Not nothingness, no doubt, because it is just Non-sense

This indicates that Paucard's artistic qualities involved making sculptures as well as writing literary and poetic texts.

Paucard did not make his sculptures to sell, he kept them together and housed his creations in a separate shelter near his home, an accommodation he constructed himself and which eventually became a small-scale museum.

Just as Paucard's notebooks include all kinds of personal thoughts and poems, so his sculptures can be seen as just as many representations of persons who in any way were of significance to him. 

And just as the notes in these notebooks joint together acquire a specific meaning, so the collection of sculptures in their mutual relationship gets its own meaning, as is the case in many art environments.

Paucard died on February 18, 1980 at age 94. He was laid to rest in the local cemetery in a family tomb that he had made himself in the 1950s.

His son Roland Paucard, who took care of the sculptures, in consultation with the mayor of the village, bequeathed in 2008 the collection of sculptures and all of Paucard's notebooks to the municipality. The mayor said that in this way the collection of sculptures could remain together and would not be spread over various regional museums.

After the necessary preparations (funds had to be collected to renovate the former courtyard of the school of Saint-Salvadour near the town hall and the collection had to be transferred to their new premises), the Museum was officially opened in November 2010.

The museum is open all year round and can be visited free of charge.

* Article in Wikipedia
* Entry (undated) with pictures of the Musée Paucard as it originally was (on a weblog on
* Article (October 2009) on the weblog Algerazur 
* Article (August 2011) on the weblog of Bruno Montpied
* Website about villages in the Corrèze area, with pictures of the Museum in Saint-Salvadour

¹ French text available thanks to Revue Recoins

Antoine Paucard
Musée des sculptures
Le Bourg
19700 Saint-Salvadour, dept Corrèze, region Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France
open all year round, daily from 8 a.m., free access

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