October 13, 2010

Jean Prosper Gilis, Gilis à Barras

 this picture and the next two
 courtesy of Art Insolite Amis

Jean Prosper Gilis (1907-1974), a mason who lived in a small community in the south of France (Bergerac area) in 1968 at age 61 began transforming the garden around his house into kind of a garden of Eden, decorating it with sculptures of a variety of animals, crafted of cement and brightly colored. 

Some sculptures represent personalities, like the famous french marshall leClerc and general Charles de Gaulle, but it is obvious Gilis preferred to make sculptures of animals.

He has been making these creations for some five, six years, and since he suffered from sciatica, Gilis must have needed a lot of willpower and energy to pursue his creative activity.

It appears that one of the statues, presumably depicting de Gaulle, in reality is a self-portrait of Gillis, which -because time was pressing- was mounted upon a torso of the general. This must have been the last sculpture Gilis has made (This information by Jean-François Maurice on the weblog of Jean-Michel Chesné, see below "documentation").

Jean Prosper Gillis died in 1974. The garden still is extant (2010), but gradually the sculptures are loosing their colours and the seasons take their toll.

 picture of the garden (summer 2010) 
courtesy of Sophie Lepetit, from her weblog

Madame Gilis has become too old to take care of the garden and there is no one around to help her.

The garden is a sweet, small monument reflecting former times, a testimonial to the creativity and perseverance of a modest man from a former generation, whose creations hardly anyone cares about today.

Documentation/more pictures
* The weblog of Jean Michel Chesné  has two notes (here and here) with pictures of and information (in french) about Gilis' life and works (oct/nov 2010)
* Pictures from a visit (2010) by Sophie Lepetit have been published on her weblog 
* Weblog Fumélois: nature et patrimoine (jan 2012) with pictures 

Jean Prosper Gilis
Gilis a Barras
47500 Bonaguil, dept Lot-et-Garonne, regio Nouvelle Aquitaine, France
no public visits


  1. Hi Henk ! Greetings... I've been away for a while, was in the US for a few weeks, and am only slowly getting back up to speed here.

    I can't help but wonder if there is an infinite supply of outsider art sites in Europe... you continue to find new ones month in and month out. Amazing how many people have been inspired to create, to leave their mark, even if only in a small way, on their personal environment.

    While in the US I visited a small house / museum, which could very well be considered an outsider art site, created by a gentleman named Wharton Esherick. If you are not already familiar with him, there is alot of info about him on the web, he was quite famous in a small way. His house is simply beautiful, as are his sculptures, paintings, and etchings.

    Best wishes,

  2. Hi Owen, Welcome back home. I noted you made a lot of pictures during your holidays. I love the ones you published so far, diners, trains, houses with flags, trailers people live in, all with a specific atmosphere and shot with that special feeling of yours.
    My series of "environments" indeed is going on and on.....did'nt know this when I started, but surprises keep up coming.
    Yes, I know about Esherick, especially his woodwork. A Pensylvanian Icon. Will be glad to see your photographic impression of him.
    And I hope you mastered your jet lag :-))