December 11, 2008

Chomo, Le village d´art préludien / The village of preludian art

the text on this picture ¹ reads 
"I am the fool of the woods, 
a man is not intelligent because he is cultivated"

Although Chomo (1907-1999) had a formal training in art schools, he would not actively participate in the regular world of art and in the 1960's he somehow retreated from society too, when he permanently settled on a plot in the woods of Fontainebleau, south of Paris.

Generally speaking, the interest in his work has mainly come from those interested in outsider art.

Life and works

Chomo, as he called himself, was born as Roger Chomeaux on January 28, 1907, in the community of Berlaimont in the north of France. As a young man he already had a passion for art and so he went to an art school in Valenciennes (1921-1925) and to l´École des Beaux Arts in Paris (1926-1928),

In the 1930's he had a job as a decorator of carpets.

During World War II for some years he was deported to Poland. Back in France he probably had the same kind of job, but he was also active in making art (gouaches, ceramics, experiments with film). In the summer months Chomo and his family would reside in kind of a summerhouse on a plot of land the family owned in Achères la Forêt, in the woods south of Paris.

In 1960 Chomo had an exposition in a art gallery in Paris (Jean Camion, Rue des Beaux Arts). It was a great success, especially in circles of surrealists. However,  Chomo did not agree in selling the most important and expensive works.

In the following years he began transforming the area around the summerhouse in Achères into an art environment, making a variety of constructions and buildings by recuperating all kinds of materials like plastics, old wood and dead trees.

l'Église des Pauvres
above picture and the next two (may 2014) 
 courtesy of Raija Kallioinen 

These constructions got names such as l´Église des Pauvres (the Church of the Poor), le Sanctuaire des Bois Brûlés (The Shrine of Burned Woods) and le Refuge (the Shelter). Inside Chomo would store and expose his smaller creations.

From the mid 1960s on Chomo resided permanently in the woods amidst his artwork, actively engaged in a variety of artistic projects, like painting and sculpting, making carpets, but also writing poems, making music and recording movies.

the cabin where Chomo lived

Chomo did not consider himself as an outsider or art brut artist, but said he made art préludien (preludian art, his art and way of life as an ecologist avant la lettre being a prelude to the world to come).

picture of Chomo as published on weblog 
"Chercheurs de Son" (not available anymore), 

Chomo declined to participate in expositions, probably with the exception of a special one, organized in his honor in 1991 (19/1 - 3/2) by a group of friends. This expo took place in the community of Milly-la-Forêt, not far from where Chomo had his site.

Already during his life Chomo's artistic work was admired by a number of other artists and by art lovers, mainly those interested in outsider art. In the 1970s, 80s and 90s visitors would come by to see his creations. They were welcome on Saturdays and Sundays.

Chomo died in june 1999.

Exposition in Paris (2009-2010)

In 2009 it was ten years ago that Chomo died. In his honor from September 2009 until March 2010 the Halle Saint Pierre, Paris, dedicated him an exposition.

The expo was introduced by one of its curators, Laurent Danchin, who explained that in his opinion Chomo does not belong to the realm of those who create outsider art, but should be appreciated as an artist who has a place in the history of great French art (art savant). French cultural authorities should devote a museum to him. (See OEE-texts for the english translation of Danchin's introduction) .

Laurent Danchin (1946-2017), who was well known as a writer about (outsider) art, around 1975 began to visit Chomo weekly and they became friends. In an article in the French magazine La Grappe (nr 74, January 2009) Danchin looked back on this relation. 

Action to save the site

The site as such currently still exists, that is to say: the built structures are still extant. Chomo's sculptures, paintings and other smaller creations have been removed and are stored in a safe shelter.

In 2015 Laurent Danchin and friends initiated a project to raise money to take measures to protect the built structures from decay. A first stage was carried out in the summer of that year.

On October 3, 2015 an open day was organized to present the site to those interested in the developments. On below video (subtitled in English) Laurent Danchin welcomes the visitors.

Meanwhile an association of friends of Chomo has been established

Exposition 2015/2016

From December 5, 2015 until February 14, 2016 the exposition Faites un rêve avec Chomo !  (Dream along with Chomo !) could be seen in the Castle in the city of Tours (France).

Unlike the exposition in Paris (2009-2010) which focused upon Chomo's oeuvre, this exposition dealt with Chomo's artistic development, his character, his various artistic activities and the campaign of the association of friends to protect Chomo's most beautiful creation Le Refuge.

The video below has an impression of the exposition.

Selected documentation
* Website Habitants-Paysagistes with a series of photos (1982-1992) by Francis David
* Website of the Association of friends
* Roger Chomeaux, CHOMO, Ed. Jean-Claude Simoën, 1978 (statements by Chomo, penned by Laurent Danchin; this publication is also known by its subtitle that appears on the interior: CHOMO, un pavé dans la vase intellectuelle)
* Website (in french) entirely devoted to Chomo, with a biography, a list of video's, picture galleries and a number of texts about the artist 
* The site appears  in Jarvis Cocker's Journeys into the Outside (1999, on YouTube in 2012, see my post of August 23, 2012)
* On Flickr some 40 pictures of the site (presented by Halle Saint Pierre, Paris)
* Article about the site by Sonia Terhzaz on her website Cartographie des Rocamberlus (environments d'art singulier), reporting a visit she paid in July 2021.

* Jérôme Adeline, Au Royaume de Chomo (Vimeo, 2016, 15'), a video that gives an impression of the renovation, also scenes of an open day in 2015 with Laurent Danchin

¹  the picture which can be found in various versions on the internet. actually is the front cover of the book edited by Laurent Danchin, published in 1978 and entitled Roger Chomeaux, CHOMO (see documentation)

first published December 2008, last revised April 2022

le Village d'Art Préludien
24 route de Paris (D63)
lieu dit "Paris-Forêt"
77760 Achères la Forêt, dept Seine-et-Marne, region Île de France, France
site as such still exists, protective measures have been taken,
except open days for members of the association of friends of Chomo, 
the site is not open to the public


  1. Personal account (in Dutch) of the visit to le Village d'Art Préludien on October 3rd, 2015 with some pictures.
    Persoonlijk verslag van een bezoek aan le Village d'Art Préludien op 3 oktober 2015 met enkele foto's.