July 20, 2011

Jean Billon, Maison entourée de sculptures / House surrounded by sculptures

pictures courtesy of Sophie Lepetit, from her weblog

In her weblog of April 30, 2011, Sophie Lepetit wrote about her visit to Jean Billon, living in Beauvoir-sur-Mer in the Vendee area in France. The some 3000 wooden sculptures Billon made since he became retired in 1992, have transformed exterior and interior of his house into an art environment. The following post summarizes Sophie's observations (thanks Sophie!).

Life and works

Jean Billon (1930-2023) was born in Beauvoir in a farmers' family and at age seventeen he went to work as a farmhand in Fontenay-le-Comte. He had a variety of jobs, like coal cutter, factory sweeper and porter at a bank, and retired from work in 1992, to settle in the community of Beauvoir.

Both by chance and by desire he began making wooden sculptures, using pine and cypress, modelling the wood with a chain saw. It took him time to get grip on this instrument, because as he says "the chainsaw chops and I wanted to sculpt".

Jean Billon has made sculptures in various sizes, large ones like above mobile donkey (which was also available for a ride by young visitors), but also small ones, like owls, pigs, cats, turtles and so on. One of his largest sculptures is a 2.4 meter high ostrich. 

He also depicted all kinds of food and tools, and he produced a number of books, some of these relating personal experiences like a surgery he underwent 

Since Jean Billon had a shoulder prosthesis, handling the chainsaw gradually became problematic, so later in life he was happy to be surrounded by his "children" and he liked to welcome passersby who stopped to take a look at the sculpture garden.

Jean Billon passed away on July 15, 2023 at age 93.

In a comment on this post dated August 2023, it is noted that all creations that lined the front of the house, have been removed. 

* On website OEE-texts in agreement with Sophie Lepetit a translation into English of her article about Billon has been published  
Another article (August 12, 2011)  by Sophie Lepetit with new pictures, also of the wooden books
Article about the site by Sonia Terhzaz on her website Cartographie des Rocamberlus (environments d'art singulier), reporting the visit she paid in April 2017.

first published July 2011, last revised October 2023 

Jean Billon
House surrounded by sculptures
43 chemin du Puits de Riez
85230 Beauvoir-sur-Mer, dept Vendée, region Pays de la Loire, France

1 comment:

  1. Dear Henk,

    According to Google Maps, it seem that the site doesn't existe anymore, such a pity.

    RIP Jean Billon