This morning, thanks to my World of Interiors magazine and the internet, I have been on a wonderful journey. It started with an article in WOI about a frenchman called Francois Michaud who decorated his house in Masgot (central France) with wonderful statues that he carved, including one of Napoleon. Intrigued by the statues, I decided on further research which led me to a blog by Henk van Es called Outsider Environments Europe. Unbeknownst to my family this blog will now form the basis of all my future holiday plans. It takes you on a tour of all the outsider art throughout Europe. I think I will start close to home by visiting the sculpted rocks at Rotheneuf near Saint Malo, sculpted by a retired monk called Adolphe-Julien Fouré, depicting the characters connected to the infamous Rotheneuf family of pirates.
I began to think of my experience of outsider art and what I like about it. Apart from the passion and drive that it must take to produce it, I really like the way that it is often in unexpected and natural settings. A contrast to it’s surroundings. I first experienced this surprise as a very young child on a visit to the beach at Crantock in Cornwall. On the left of the beach is a huge cave with a beautiful carving of a woman’s head, a horse and a poem which all the members of my mother’s family can recite by heart with feeling that would give Vanessa Redgrave a run for her money.
Mar not my face but let me be, Secure in this lone caven by the sea, Let the wild waves around me roar, Kissing my lips for evermore.
We visit it every time we go there and how much of the woman is visible depends on how much sand has been swept into the cave by the tide. Crantock is an Atlantic beach and this cave is a cool and calm retreat from the roaring surf and scorching sun and the woman’s head is an unexpected and mysterious delight. My great grandparents had a cottage on the headland just above this cave and in my mind I imagine that my grandmother was present at the carving of this woman. However today is the first time that I have ever thought to do any research about this carving. According to Wikipedia it was carved in the early 20th century by Joseph Prater, the distraught lover of a woman who, while riding her horse across the beach, got cut off as the tide came in and the rough seas swept them away drowning them both. So my grandmother was not born when this woman was carved and anyway I can’t imagine a ‘distraught lover’ entertaining the attention of some kid from the village while he chiselled his grief into the side of a cave. I actually came across Joseph Prater’s great-great nephew who goes by the name of UrbanSpaceman on flickr!
All this excitement has made me hungry for more…