April 04, 2016

Félix Gresset, Musée Félix Gresset/Félix Gresset's Museum

a crocodile sipping water 
this picture and the next one from Gazogène

In former times many small communities in the French countryside had a public lavoir, a usually roofed basin supplied with water generally of a natural origin, available for the inhabitants to rinse the laundry after washing ¹.

Since such facilities currently are no longer needed, they may take another use, such as the lavoir in Chantegrue, France, which currently houses a small scale outsider art museum with woodworks, created by Félix Gresset (1917-1993).

Life and works

Gresset was a small farmer who lived in Chantegrue. Later in life, to meet the ends, he became employed by the municipality as a road mender, a job that also took him into the local forests.

One of his tasks in this capacity included cleaning the roads from fallen branches.

Engaged in this activity, he recognized in some of these branches an animal or a person, which fascinated him in such a way that he began to collect wooden items that appealed to him.

By processing them somewhat, he could bring out their specific character, such as the bonhomme (good guy) in next picture.

a "bonhomme" (good guy)

Over the years the collection grew and eventually the front of his farmhouse, where Gresset put the items on display, became a sizable menagerie.

Apart from the picture below that might depict a scene from Gresset's front garden, to my knowledge the internet has no pictures that show how this art environment looked like when situated in front of the farmhouse.

The picture is a reprint from the catalogue  of the 1997/98 exposition Art brut Collection de l'Aracine in the LaM Museum in Lille. Five creations by Gresset (depicting two persons, a monkey and two nameless items) are part of the collection de l'Aracine, which was donated to the museum.

The picture below might also depict these five items in a museum arrangement, but anyhow, it gives an idea of the possible appearance of Gresset's art environment.

picture from the weblog 
Le poignard subtil (Bruno Montpied)

After Gresset died in 1993, the family decided to bequeath the collection to the community. It was installed as Musée Félix Gresset in the no longer used lavoir.

The exposition shows some 200 creations, arranged around the water basins, placed in vitrines or attached to the walls.

picture from website "La route des communes"
portal des communes de Franche-Comté

* Article in Gazogène  
* Article in l'Est Républicain (august 2015) with pictures
* Entry on weblog The Beret Project (february 2016)
* Referrals (February 2016) in weblog Le poignard subtil (Bruno Montpied)

¹ A lavoir often has an interesting architecture. See the article by Rita van den Boogert, "Monumental lavoirs and fontaines  in France" (published by the Folly Fellowship, February 2017)

Félix Gresset
Musée Félix Gresset
Hameau de Chantegrue, dept Doubs, region Bourgogne/Franche-Comte, France
visitors welcome for a free visit

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