November 19, 2008

Bodan Litnianski, Jardin aux coquillages/Garden of shells

Portrait (2002) by Laurent Jacquy, Vivement Dimanche

Life and works

Bodan Litnianski (1913-2005) migrated around 1930 from Ukraine to France, where he got employment as a bricklayer and a mason. After World II, that saw him captivated, he returned to France and bought a house in Viry-Noureuil near Chauny in the north of France.

He had to restore this old house and when he was doing this he also decorated some outside walls with shells. This entailed that the neighbours went to denote the site as a garden of shells, the name under which this art environment ultimately has become known in publications.

After he had decorated the exterior walls, Litnianski continued the project by decorating the garden along the street. He would haunt the region and collect thrown away materials, like puppets, toys, all kinds of scrap...

He arranged these objets trouvés into very colourful columns which he erected in the front garden. All constructions were made very solid. Litnianski stood his ground in masonry indeed.

Working vertically maybe was not just a creative idea, it probably also was a practical necessity because of the smallness of the plot.

Most of these colums have weather-vanes on top, constructed -mostly on winterdays- by re-employing thrown away materials.

Litnianski liked to meet people who came to visit his creation and he often told proudly that he had designed its layout all by himself.

House and garden are on sale

After Bodan Litnianski died in 2005, his wife Emilie Litnianski continued to take care of the site, untill in 2008 she also passed away. From that time the site has been closed for the public.

A local newspaper has reported in june 2009 that the inheritors have decided to put the house on sale. They prefer that someone who (or some organisation that) is interested in maintaining the site, will react and will make a good offer. In august 2013 another regional newspaper has reported, that the site is still on sale; the vegetation is gradually overgrowing the creations and the art environment is in danger to fall into ruins.

* Litnianski in 1998 at age 85 was filmed for Jarvis Cocker's Journeys into the Outside (1999, on Youtube in 2012, see my post of august 23, 2012).
The sequence with Litnianksi (on Youtube/Les beauxdimanches)  is here:

* Denys Riout, introduction Agnès Varda, photo's Benjamin Teissèdre and Laurent Jacquy, Le jardin des merveilles de Bodan Litnianski, 2004  (Texts in french and english, the book can still be ordered at Editions Vivement Dimanche). In OEE-texts I republished the preface of Agnès Varda (2004).
*Also in OEE-texts the translation of an article (2009) by the architect Jean-Marc Huygen. This article is a plea to save the site as an example of how re-employment of the waste of society can contribute to durability.
*Authored by Laurent Jacquy, in 2010 a well-illustrated website was published which is completely devoted to life and works of Bodan Litnianski( texts in french and english).
* Article on SPACES website
* Bodan Litnianski has appeared in the Agnès Varda movie Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (France, 2000, 90m).

first published nov 2008, revised jun 2009, jan, jun, dec 2010, nov 2011, sept 2012

Bodan Litnianski
Jardin du Coquillage
15 rue Jean Jaures
02300 Chauny FR
closed for the public


  1. any news about if this site is still extant (even if closed for tours), or has it been sold and demolished?

    1. @ Parus radious. The site is still extant, but gradually detoriating. There is no news about a sale of the property