March 02, 2009

Marcel Landreau, Le jardin de la mariée/The garden of the bride

The picture above made by Bernard Lassus*, shows a group of french people, gathering on a sunday afternoon to watch kind of a show presented in a decorated garden in their community (around 1967)
Life and works

Born in the community of Noirterre in the Deux-Sèvres area in France, Marcel Landreau (1922-1992), after school became a pastry chef. After WWII for some years he stayed in french Indochine (what nowadays is VIetnam), to settle around 1961 in Mantes-la-Jolie, west of Paris. where he had a job with the french railway company, being a foreman in shunting freight trains.

In Mantes he acquired a plot of (sloped) land, where constructed his house, and doing this he began making sculptures from pebbles he glued together in such a way that parts of the creations could be animated.

He also made structures and constructs to decorate his garden, his masterpiece being a cathedral, as depicted above, constructed in 1965.

A special feature of the garden became a procession of people descending from the cathedral.

Another feature was a scene of people dancing at a wedding party. Probably that's why the garden has been named after the bride. Landreau constructed the impersonations in such a way that parts of them could make movements, controlled by wires connected to electric motors.

On sundays, after lunch, the locals liked to come and watch from the street the life show of people dancing at a wedding on music from a homemade PA system (which also could produce the sound of ringing church bells)

At the end of 1989, when Landreau was approaching his seventies, he wanted to return to the Deux-Sèvres area, where he was born. He sold the house, and the new owner eventually had the site demolished, although he had made other promisses.

For a number of years it was assumed that all of Marcel Landreau's creations had gone.

Recovered sculptures (2009)

However, in october 2009 it has been made public that a collection of the smaller sculptures has been discovered. As far as I understand Marcel Landreau himself has taken care to bring the sculptures into safety and store them in the area where he went to live after he left Mantes-la-Jolie.

sculpture representing Yvette Horner 
(in France a famous lady playing the accordeon)
picture from the Animula Vagula weblog

The recovered items have been traced by antique dealers Fred and Cathy Tavard, who as far as I have understood, came along them at a firm that trades in old construction materials.

Documentation/more pictures
* Marielle Magliozzi, Art brut, architectures marginales. Un art de bricolage., Paris (l'Harmattan), 2008 .
* Pictures of the recovered items can be seen on the weblog of Animula Vagula of october 18, 2009  This blog also has a diashow of isolated sculptures

first published march 2009, revised oct 2009, june 2013

*The picture by Bernard Lassus comes from "The Vernacular Garden" (1993), a collection of papers of a conference on the history of landscape architecture (paper of Bernard Lassus). 
Bernard Lassus is a well known French writer on landscapes and gardens. His book Jardins imaginaires (1977) was an important factor in the rise of interest in the environments created by ordinary people and self-taught artists. 

Marcel Landreau
Le jardin de la mariée
rue Louise Michel

26210 Mantes-la-Jolie
site demolished, 
some items have been saved and are in a private collection

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