November 28, 2008

Fernand Châtelain, le Jardin Humoristique / the Humorous Garden

 picture courtesy of marcello14, Flickr

Bonjour aux promeneurs, that text is stated on the nameplate of one of the many sculptures made by Fernand Châtelain ¹. I am fond of this sculpted little man who in my very first post welcomed visitors of this weblog.

Life and works

Born in Piacé in France, Fernand Châtelain (1899-1988) first had a job as a baker and then became a farmer. 

When retired in 1962, he and his wife settled in the small community of Fyé, south of Alençon, where the couple had acquired a house with a garden facing Fyé's main street.

In 1965 Châtelain began making sculptures which he displayed in the garden along the street: all types of persons, a variety of animals and constructions, such as the Pisa Tower.

All together these slightly over seventy artworks constituted a lively and jolly display, a humorous garden indeed, also because of Châtelain's funny signs he added to the exhibition.

The creations could be seen (and probably were meant to be seen) from the street, once a national, currently a departmental road. One of Châtelain's impersonations greeted the passers-by (Bonjour aux promeneurs) and he added signs telling them how far it was to either Alençon or le Mans.

picture (2007) from website Outsider Art in France

 Fernand Châtelain has been active in creating this art environment for some twenty years.

After he died in 1988, the collection was legated to the community, but for a long time the site wasn't being cared for.

site before restoration
picture (2006) from the former website "les inspirés du bord des routes"

In 2005 however, with the support of the local government, the garden and the sculptures have been restored. This was done under the supervision of Laure Chavanne, who in 2015 published an article about this renovation (see documentation) 

Actual situation (2022)

Nowadays the garden is still in good condition. Annual maintenance is carried out by students of the art academies in Le Mans and Tours.

* In her article (around 1997) "Qui sauvera le jardin naïf de Fernand Chatelain?" Jeanine Rivais describes the state of the site  around 1997, almost ten years after the death of Châtelain
* A series of pictures, made just before restoration, on Fred's travel site 
* Another series on the website Outsider Art in France (September 2007)
* Article (October 6, 2008) by Bruno Montpied, in his weblog, a review of the restoration
* Laure Chavanne, "Préserver la mémoire des âmes bricoleuses"in d'Étonnants jardins en Nord-Pas de Calais, Lyon (Ed. Les lieux-dits), 2015, pp 31-35. 
* Website Habitants-paysagistes (by Lille Art Museum from March 2018 on) has a series of pictures by Francis David (1982) and l'Aracine (1984-2008)
* Article (February 2019) by Jessica Strauss on her weblog Quirk

* Video by Vues sur Loire (3'16", YouTube, May 2015)

¹ This sculpture currently is part of the collection of the Muséee-jardin de la Luna Rossa 
in Caen, Brittany, France 

first published November 2008, last revised September 2022

Fernand Châtelain
Le jardin humoristique
72610 Fyé, dept Sarthe, region Pays de la Loire, France
along the D 338, at the entrance of the village coming from Alençon
in 2022 open from June 5 until September 18 on Sundays, 14.30 -18 hrs 


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