July 17, 2017

Pierre Jaïn, Musée-exposition/Museum-exposition

the card player (high 53 cm)
picture courtesy of Jean-Michel Jaïn

Still rather unknown in the field of outsider art, a recently published book (Benoît Jaïn, Pierre Jaïn. Un hérétique chez les "bruts") retains Pierre Jaïn's artwork from oblivion fifty years after his death. His sculpture garden in Brittany, France, which to a very limited extent currently still exists, included just a small part of his creative outburst in the 1950s/60s. 

Life and works

Born in Kerlaz, Finistère, France, in a large family, Pierre Jaïn (1904-1967), due to long-term problems with a broken ankle only went to school at the age of ten. After three years he left school to go to work on the farm of his parents. 

He was in the military from 1924-1925 and when in 1931 his father died, he took his place at the farm.

Because of the imminent war with Germany he was mobilized in the army in 1939.  In March 1940 Jaïn broke his legs by a collision with a car and he had to stay in hospitals for a long time to rehabilitate. 

 the bishop (high 63 cm)
this picture and the next three courtesy of Benoît Jaïn

During that long period of rehabilitation he discovered his interest in drawing and sculpting, which he showed by for example processing small pieces of wood with a pocket knife. 

In 1942 Jaïn returned to Kerlaz, to resume the management of the farm, a task he transferred  in 1948 to a brother. 

The effects of the accident had reduced his physical abilities and he would always have problems with walking. 

 tribute to the deported 
(by Germany during the second world war)

Jaïn would  never marry. In the early 1950s he arranged his own accommodation on the farm's grounds to which he linked a three-to-seven meters large shed he could use as a studio.

In the late 1950s, around 1956, Jaïn got retired from his job and then he actually began creating artworks. He was in his early fifties.

An explosion of creativity

In his studio Jaïn dedicated himself to making sculptures, some of these from animal bones obtained from the local butcher, others from locally available pieces of granite and a rather large number from tree stumps or other pieces of wood. Rising early in the morning he worked steadily, making some 400 creations during the next eight years.

In his artworks Jain expressed his interest in Breton folklore, legends and belief systems,

the Breton village, a creation from a tree stump (63x64 cm)

On shelves along the walls of the studio dozens of sculptures were arranged, often stand alone characters such as devils, saints, historical persons, ethnological types or Breton celebrities, but also more composite creations, such as a scene of a Breton village or a woman and a dragon, as depicted above and below.

the woman and the dragon, sculpted wood (high 52 cm)

The sculptures from granite or cement, a selection of which is pictured in this article, in general were displayed in the garden and the orchard.

Living near the bay of Douarnenez, directly connected to the Atlantic Ocean, Jaïn feared the power of the waters of the ocean and familiar with the legend of Ker-Ys, comparable with the biblical story of the flood, he had surrounded the site with a system of protective devices, such as a series of wooden sentinels with a repulsive look to ward of evil intentions, a Groupe Tricéphale (a three headed granite sculpture) at the entrance, a Gargouille (Gargoyle, a legendary dragon) and a three meter high wooden totem with a thin face under a zinc cap.

The art environment had also some other special features. 

There was a Hutte d'Adam (Adam's hut), kind of a man-sized  molehill with an opening through which a seated Adam could be observed, linked with a chain to Eve who was located in a hut named Tentation d'Eve (Temptation of Eve). All together an ensemble depicting the paradis terrestre (heaven on earth).

Head of Gorgon
this picture and the next one courtesy of Jean-Michel Jaïn
And then there was a self-made musical instrument, the Jaïnophone, a percussion set of mainly metal tubes constructed by Jaïn from all kinds of obsolete materials such as copper pipes, bed springs, plowshares and other sound producing items. Jaïn actually played this instrument, producing music hors normes

A sign at the entrance with the text Musée-Exposition welcomed visitors and people from the U.K. and the Netherlands on holiday in Brittany indeed came by.

Jaïn hospitalized

In June 1966 Jaïn got very serious psychiatric problems. He was admitted to the psychiatric hospital in Quimper, where he stayed for more than a year. Returned home in August 1967 he passed away on November 21, 1967.

Later developments

Pierre Maunoury, a psychiatrist and artist from  the region, who already in 1964 had visited Jaïn, wrote about the artworks in the Fascicules d'Art Brut no 10, published by the Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne. He also donated a set of decorated bones to the museum.

In 1991 Bruno Montpied rediscovered Jaïn's artwork and wrote about it both in specialized magazines and in his weblog (see documentation).

The artworks could be seen in various regional and local expositions: in 1965 in Douarnenez (organized by Pierre Jaïn himself); in 2001 in Dol de Bretagne (l'Art Brut à l'ABRI); in 2002 in Kerlaz (organized by Jaïn's family) and in 2013 in Brest (l'Art Brut à l'Ouest).

At the time of the publication of this post in this weblog there was an exposition in Kerlaz (july 12-23, 2017), also at the occasion of the new book by Benoît Jaïn.

capped character (60 cm high)

Actual state of the artworks

With a number of exceptions the some 400 self-contained wooden sculptures, divided among the various members of the Jaïn family, are still existing.

However, the wooden sculptures which were displayed outside in the Musée-exposition perished by the effects of the weather, in so far they haven't been removed in time. Most other decorative items, the Jaïnophone included, have been removed

In fact the garden currently only contains some granite sculptures, partly weathered by growing moss.

The farmhouse has become a gîte, where holidaymakers can rent a room. The presence of the sculptures promotes the attractiveness of the site as a holiday residence.

* Website about Pierre Jaïn edited by Benoît Jaïn
* A book by Benoît Jaïn, Pierre Jaïn. Un hérétique chez les "bruts". Kerlaz (YIL Editions), 2017. -115 p
* Article on the weblog of Jean-Yves Cordier about  sculptures by Jaïn at the exposition l'Art Brut á l'Ouest (2013) 
* Various articles and referrals on the weblog of Bruno Montpied
* Article on Wikiwand

Pierre Jaïn
Kerioret Izella, Kerlaz, dept Finistère, region Brittany, France
site doesn't exist anymore, except some granite sculptures

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