CHAPTER XI

 

 

THE EXHIBITS AND THE REACTION TO THE EXHIBITION

 

 

The exhibits

 

      Of the one hundred and thirty-three pieces catalogued for the exhibition, twenty-two were exclusively utilitarian forms.  The remaining one hundred and eleven belonged mainly to the category of 'art populaire.' (Fig. ll6) ( Figs. 116i,116ii,116iii, 116iv )

 

      Altogether there were twenty-two exhibitors, two of which were the local Ecole des Beaux-Arts which loaned twelve pieces, and the Musée du Berry, from whose collection fourteen pieces had been borrowed.  The remaining exhibits belonged to private individuals, all of whom were local except for three - Mlle, Louise Berchon, the Comte de Scoraille and M. Golden - who had Parisian addresses.  The two former, however, had local connections, Mlle. Berchon in Les Gaudins, north of Bourges and close to Ivoy-le-Pré, and de Scoraille owning a château at Villequiers, in the department of Cher.

 

      The number of examples loaned by each varied between one and four and, except for those from the collections of Dr. Pellerin and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, more than half of the exhibits came from the combined collections of the Musée du Berry,  François Guillaume, Joseph de La Nézière and Joseph Massé.

 

      Such a proportion is significant in itself.  The collection of the Musée du Berry had been amassed primarily as the result of donation from members of local learned societies who had also associations with the museum.  Despite this gradual augmentation of works in the possession of the museum, little effort appears to have been devoted to researching the field.  By contrast,  François Guillaume, Joseph de la Nézière and Joseph Massé were undoubtedly the first to have responded with sufficient enthusiasm and open-mindedness to the village of La Borne, both its history and its production, to have actively embarked on the formation of personal collections.

 

      Though the title of the l935 exhibition might have implied that all the ware on display would be restricted to ceramics produced in La Borne during the given century, such was not the case.  In the catalogue, one exhibit, No. 88 'Gobelet avec tête moulée' was a modern piece, made in La Borne and signed 'Bedu', though there is no further information to indicate whether the author was Armand Bedu or another member of the family.  Uncertainty was expressed about another, No. 3 Bénitier avec Christ et personnages', with the accompanying notes 'pourrait avoir été exécuté aux poteries de Neuvy, 3e quart du XlXe.' (l)  Three others had been made in different pottery centres in the region. One, No. l2, a pichet signed by Louis Auch¸re, (Fig. ll7) bore the inscription Neuvy-deux-Clochers, Cher, l882. (2)  Two other pieces, soup tureens (Nos. 4l and 76), had been made at Les Sigurets, Neuilly-en-Sancerre, and were signed respectively 'Panarioux  François' and 'Panariou  François fait en l88l'.  These soupières were ornamented with an impressed geometric decoration, the handle on the lid being in the form of a bird which had been fashioned as a whistle to call the diners to table. (Fig. ll8)  Of the rest, only ten were signed, with the remainder taken as having been made in La Borne.

 

      As  François Guillaume had indicated in his 'Notes Historiques', the only names known to him at that time were, Jacques-Sébastien Talbot, those of his children, Marie and Jean, and Marie Chameron and her daughter-in-law, Valentine Chameron (3), and, except for Marie Chameron, those were the names that appeared on the signed pieces:

 

 

THE SIGNED PIECES

 

Jacques-Sébastien Talbot

 

No. 66 - 7l  Effectively one piece, since the cylinders displayed were

             six of the nine that had combined to form the support for

             the 'croix de carrefour' that had originally signalled the

             entrance to the village of La Borne.  Displayed as single

             units in the exhibition one bore the inscription 'Faite

             par moi Jacques-Sébastien Talbot.  Potier  La Borne

             Commune Danrichemonts, ce l0 Mai l92l, followed by the

             Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison and the Pater

             Noster. (Fig. ll9)

 

Marie Talbot

 

Five pieces in all were signed by the daughter of Jacques-Sébastien:

No. 3l             Fontaine à personnage féminin (undated)

No. 37           Bouteille à Marc (undated)

No. 48           Bouteille à Marc personnage féminin du type polichinelle

                       (undated)

No. 53           Pichet à tête de personnage coiffé d'une mitre (undated)

No. 98           Epi de faîtage: 'Marie et Mariee' (undated) (Fig. l20)

 

 

Jean Talbot

 

Two only bore his signature:

 

No. 73           Grand pichet à tête, (dated l848)

No. 89           Bouillotte en forme de livre portent sur les nervures la

                       signature du potier: 'Fait par moi Talbot, Jean l873' (4)

                       (Fig. l2l)

 

 

Valentine Chameron

 

The signature of Valentine Chameron appeared on three pieces:

 

No. ll             Pichet à tête de personnage barbu, grossièrement ébauché

                       (undated)

No. 29           Bouteille a eau-de-vie à personnage féminin coiffé d'un                              bonnet berrichon (wrongly dated l832!)

No. 57           Grande plaque décorative ronde ayant 5l0 mm de diamètre                       et représentant en ronde bosse la Vierge entourée d'anges                  et surmontant les astres.  Une banderole au pied porte                         'Immaculée Conception'. (undated) (Fig. l22)

 

      Other than those which had been either signed and dated, or only signed, by the major figures named by Guillaume, only two others bore a date:

 

No. 26           Petite bouteille a eau-de-vie à personnage féminin coiffé d'un

                       bonnet - dated l783.

No.l04           Partie arrière d'un épi de faîtage privée de tout intérêt

                       artistique mais dont la date mérite attention - In addition to

                       being dated juillet l777 a La Borne, this piece also carried                          the signature C.C. Talbot. (Fig. l0)

 

      Exhibit No. 28 'Bouteille à eau-de-vie en forme de Couronne', had a paper label stuck on its base with the following inscription written in ink: 'La Borne (Cher), fin l845

 

      Doubt was cast on two pieces, both of which were the property of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  These, Nos. 6l and 62, were of the same form and function, 'Pichet Conique à Col découpé avec application de feuillage', No. 6l being accompanied by the comment 'Seul échantillon, avec le numéro suivant d'un essai de poterie cuite à basse température.'(5)

 

      With the provenance, authorship or date of the foregoing twenty-six pieces assured, one is forced to attempt a reconstruction of the probable schema that  François Guillaume utilised to propose dates or attributions for the remaining exhibits, since there are no authoritative documents other than his catalogue notes, his personal dossier, and the letters to 'Beaux-Arts' and 'l'Illustration'.  From these, however, two broad categories are clear, namely, that the individual artistry and inventiveness of the artist-potters in La Borne had started to decline in the final quarter of the nineteenth century though the use of applied, moulded, decorative forms.  This was concurrent, as his 'Notes Techniques ' had argued, with the more prevalent reliance on minium as a glaze ingredient.  As a consequence he uses such terms as 'style decadent' and 'époque decadente' to classify most, but not all, of the pieces he identifies as belonging to this period. (6)

 

      One of these was signed by Valentine Chameron, while the other was unsigned.  In similar vein, a signed pichet by this potter was, due to its technical imperfections, denoted as 'grossièrement ébauché.' (7)  By contrast, other pieces regarded as dating from this period, and either signed by Valentine Chameron were catalogued without comment.  One totally moulded exhibit, 'Statuette de Voltaire' , was entered as belonging to the second quarter of the nineteenth century.(8)

 

      The presence of the two earliest dates, l777 and l783, appear to have led to the belief that six other pieces in the exhibition belonged to an early stage in the development of the 'art populaire' of La Borne.  Two holy-water fonts were respectively described as 'Petit bénitier à Christ primitif accompagné d'ornements grossièrement indiqués' (9) and, 'Bénitier à dossier portant un Christ traduit d'une manière très primitive.' (l0)  Possibly because of the treatment of the costume of the figures, two were classified as belonging to the 'époque révolutionnaire', a 'Bouteille à marc', a 'vinaigrier'.  The catalogue description of the latter piece shows that the complexity of the figure's dress may have been responsible for Guillaume attributing it to Jacques-Sébastien Talbot.

 

                       '... vinaigrier à personnage masculin

                       coiffé d'un bicorne portant cravate haute

                       sans rabat, gilet entr' ouvert fermé en bas

                       par des boutonnières à brandebourgs et veste

                       courte.  Les deux bras semblent esquisser le

                       geste de verser à boire ...' (ll)

 

     Classification of the remaining pieces fall into two categories, that is, an approximate dating and an attribution.  It would appear that the most probable criteria used for the former would have been (a) the characteristics of the figures and/or decorative elements, (b) the more sophisticated integration of the original form and applied elements, and finally, (c) the surface finish and colour which would have been a sufficient indication of glazes containing wood ash, laitier or minimum.  The dates proposed are mostly specific quarter centuries, though in one instance, Guillaume's catalogue notes offer a more precise dating, for example 'vers l840', though no evidence is offered to sustain such a refinement.  Similarly, the reasons for attributing particular pieces to one or other of the main protagonists is unclear.  One scenario might be that tradition within the families of either the lenders or of those who had donated pieces to the Musée du Berry had been handed on to Guillaume.  One further probability could be that, with only the three names, Jacques-Sébastien, Marie and Jean as guides, glaze quality, allied to evident stylistic variations, had led to Guillaume speculating as to the authorship of a number of pieces.  In all, the number so attempted was relatively small, five for Jacques-Sébastien, six each for Marie and Jean, with some imprecision entering into two other pieces.

 

ATTRIBUTIONS

 

Jacques Sébastien Talbot

 

No. l7             Fontaine avec personnages debout: Email gris semi-mat.                         Datée de l830 et signée J. - q. Talbot ( J.-Q. pour                                         Jacques-Sébastien).   (Fig. 74)

 

No. l8             Bouteille de lit carré.  Email gris-beige, S.D. marquée à

                       l'épaule: Talbot (probablement Jacques-Sébastien) Pièce

                       remarquable dans sa simplicité. (Fig. 74)

 

No. 22           Epi de faîtage pour la maison d'un maréchal-ferrant, Email                         gris, S.D.N.S. Arribué à J-S Talbot.  Premières années du                         XlXe.   (Figs. l06, 105)

 

No. 36           Bouteille à Marc, vieille femme coiffée d'un bonnet à

                       oreillettes.  Il y a dans l'expression réaliste du visage un

                       reste du type polichinelle.  Email vert-bronze brillant,

                      S.D.N.S. 2e quart du XlXe.  peut-être une des dernières                              pièces  de J-S. Talbot.

 

No. 42          Terrine à lièvre en forme avec lièvre sur le couvercle.  Email

                      du laitier, S.D.N.S. l er quart du XlXe.  Attribué à J-S. Talbot

                       (Fig. l23)

 

No. 93           Described above.

 

      One particular piece, also attributed to Jacques-Sébastien, is significant.  A large crucifix in Massé's collection, (Fig. 74), though not signed, is cited in the catalogue as 'Croix de carrefour ayant couronné le carrefour precité (voir No. 66 a 7l).  The survival of this cross, the characteristics of the figures and its glaze had obviously led Guillaume to conclude that it had originally formed part of the great 'croix de carrefour' of Jacques-Sébastien, of which six of the component column cylinders were also being exhibited.  In itself, such a deduction is understandable, given that, in l935, the many crosses noted by de Caumont in l869 had either disappeared, or all knowledge of any other existing ones had not as yet been brought to Guillaume's attention.

 

Marie Talbot

 

No. 52           Encrier représentant deux amoureux sous un tonnelle dont                         le fleuron superieur porte un oiseau.  Email jaune, S.D.N.S.                        Vers   l830. (Fig. 28)

 

No. 92           Vinaigrier à personnage féminin coiffé d'un bonnet pointu.

                    Email blanc avec rehauts de terre brune, S.D.N.S.  Vers l835

 

No.l03           Pichet ayant la forme d'un lion stylisé dressée sur ses                                   pattes   de derrière.  Email blanc, S.D.N.S., 2e quart XlXe.

 

No.l05           Vinaigrier, jeune femme portant capeline et robe à plis.                              Mains  croisées.  Email jaune, S.D.N.S. Vers l930 (!) An                              obvious   typographical error.

 

No.l07           Bouteille à Marc, personnage féminin portant une large                               coiffe.    Email vert-jaune, S.D.N.S.  Vers l850.

 

 

Jean Talbot

 

No. l             Calvaire de Montigny.  Email jaune, S.D.N.S.  Cette croix de

                       carrefour est la copie, faite vers l860, peut-être par Jean

                       Talbot, d'une oeuvre datant de l8l0 environ, sans doute d'un

                       style meilleur et dont il ne reste pas de trace. (Fig. 32)

 

      This was the cross recorded in page l8 of his 'Notes sur l'histoire et les fabrication de La Borne'. (Fig. l00)  Montigny, lying some ten miles from La Borne, may at this time have preserved a tradition regarding its author!

No. 34         Bouteille en forme de couronne.  Email jaune pale, S.D.N.S.,

                      2e quart du XlXe.  Type assez répondu.

 

No.l09        Pichet à tête de personnage portant tricorne.  La figure est                         en    terre brune.  Email jaune, S.D.N.S.  Vers l860

 

      Finally, it was only in his comments on three other pieces, attributed by inference to Jean Talbot, that  François Guillaume revealed the caution he was exercising in attempting to denote authorship.  The fact that such reserve is displayed is an added support for the hypothesis that, where positive attributions had been made, such confidence may have relied on transmitted family lore.  In turn, his treatment of these three pieces indicates that his criteria in this instance had been augmented by the stylistic and technical characteristics of the pieces in question.  Central to the exercise was item No. l3. Pichet à buste de personnage militaire avec kepi, epaulettes et décoration.  Email jaune, S.D.N.S., vers l850.           

 

      In addition to this description, Guillaume has posed the question: 'De la même main que le No. 28 (Jean Talbot?) (voir aussi le No. 94).  The catalogue entry for these two pieces were as follows:

 

No. 28           Bouteille à eau-de-vie en forme de couronne.  Email                                    jaune-vert,  S.D.N.S.

 

No. 94           Pichet à tête de personnage militaire.  Email vert-jaune,

                       S.D.N.S., A rapprocher du No. l3

 

      In addition to the observation already noted, two distinct characteristics emerged so forcefully from Guillaume's examination of the exhibits, that he felt constrained to devote comparatively greater space to indicating the problems they created.

 

The ware known as "Polichinelle"

 

      Attention has already been drawn to those female figures, presumed to have been made by Marie Talbot (l2) in which the nose is hooked, the chin resembles a wooden sabot-en galoche (13) - and the back is slightly hunched. (Fig. 27)  Favière was content to use the appellation 'polichinelle' in l959, though he added a second, 'fée carabosse.' (l4)  In his catalogue  François Guillaume devoted particular attention to this type as posing a problem which had been beyond resolution.(l5)  That others had been involved in attempting to solve the question of the iconography of these pieces, on to even determine the provenance of the form, is made clear in his statement:

 

                       '... Certains veulent trouver l'origine de ce

                       type très particulier dans les caricatures

                       anglaises de l'époque ...' (l6)

 

 

     Taking this argument further, some saw in the 'Polichinelle' figures confirmation of the popular belief as to the origin of the families of the village:

 

                       '... et maintenir ainsi un lien imaginaire

                       rattachant à leur pays les Talbots venus

                       d'Ecosse ...' (l7)

 

      Noting that he had been unable to find any document verifying this hypothesis,  François Guillaume, for want of better, proposed his own theory, having recourse to the popular children's puppet theatre characters, 'aux légendes de notre enfance peuplées de "polichinelles" au dos voute, au nez crochu et au menton en galoche'.(l8)

 

Religious Art

 

      In the two-page introduction to the catalogue, François Guillaume devoted particular attention to those pieces of 'art populaire' which had a specific religious function.  It is evident that his comments were stimulated by the observations which Arcis de Caumont had made in the 'Bulletin Monumentale' of l869, and which had been reproduced in Charles de Laugardières article 'Document inédit pour servir à l'histoire de la Céramique etc.' (l9)  Both authors and the titles of the reference material were already recorded in the bibliography of Guillaumes 'Notes sur l'histoire et les fabrications de La Borne' (20).  Some details from the account of Thomas Panariou's l657 contract with Thomas Sionnest had been noted (21) and he had taken the trouble to type the full text of de Caumont's references to both the 'croix de carrefour' and ceramic funerary monuments which had, at one time, been placed on the tombs of the potters of La Borne in the cemetery at Henrichemont.  Like de Caumont, succeeding nineteenth century authors had been dismissive of the artistic merits of such pieces.  By contrast,  François Guillaume saw in those crosses with which he was already familiar, qualities which he claimed bore favourable comparison with more generally accepted examples of religious art:

 

                       '...Une retrospective des poteries de La Borne

                       serait incomplète si elle ne faisait une place

                       importante à l'art religieux.  Sans connaître

                       leurs prédécesseurs les imagiers du Moyen Age,

                      qui s'étaient exprimés dans la pierre et le bois,

                       les potiers de La Borne ont souvent atteint un art

                       supérieur en modelant les Christ de leur croix de

                       carrefour ...'(22)

 

            In all, twenty-four catalogue entries were recorded.

 

l.         The large decorative plaque 'Immaculée Conception' by Valentine

           Chameron. (Fig. l22)

 

 

2.        Ten holy-water fonts-bénitiers - some of which are described as

           having been executed with 'reliefs moulés' or, somewhat dismiss-

         - ively, 'Christ primitif accompagné d'ornements grossièrement

           indiqués or 'un Christ traduit d'une maniére trés primitive. (23)

 

      One, loaned by Louise Berchon, merited greater attention:

 

                       '... Grand bénitier à dossier rond.  La

                       partie centrale est ornée d'un calvaire

                       accompagné, en haut, de deux astres et à la

                       partie inférieure de deux ostensoires.  A la

                       périphérie, l2 colombes alternativement jaune

                       clair et jaune foncé, ailes déployées,

                       regardent le Christ.  La cuvette est un

                       forme de coquillage ...' (24) (Fig. l24)

 

      The remainder of the section was comprised of the 'fontaine avec Christ et personnages' from Massé's collection, and the `Créche`, Marie-Louise Talbot's 'Virgin in her Bower', at the time adorning the garden of the curé's residence in Henrichemont, the 'Croix Montigny', the sections of the column of the large 'croix de carrefour' of Jacques-Sébastien and, finally, the crucifix, belonging to Massé, which Guillaume believed to be the 'croix de carrefour ayant couronné le calvaire precité.' (25)

 

      In decrying the disappearance of such pieces from the countryside, Guillaume's catalogue introduction had included the following comment:

 

                       '...Si, malheureusement, nombre de ces monuments

                       ont été détruits, au moins pouvons-nous, en

                       faisant appel à la collection de M. J. Massé,

                       présenter l'admirable Christ qui illustre cet

                       ouvrage ...'(26)

 

      Attributed to 'Marie Talbot vers l840' (27), Guillaume had decided to use a photograph of the head of this figure as one of the two illustrations for his catalogue. (Fig. 77)  As can be clearly seen the treatment of the form bears no resemblance at all to the art of La Borne.  Displaying a mature understanding of the structure of the head, the simplified and refined features are complemented by a sensitive stylisation of the crown of thorns while the hair and beard are patently the outcome of the work of a skilled and experienced hand, most likely that of a trained sculptor.  By contrast, the rest of the figure leaves one with the impression that it had been the work of someone else.  Attempting to model the body in an academic and realistic manner, the crude and insecure treatment only serves to emphasize the lack of comprehension of proportions as well as the muscular and skeletal structure of the human form.

 

 

 

 

UTILITARIAN WARE

 

      Presented in the catalogue as 'Quelques types de poteries anciennes et modernes d'usage courant, remarquables par leur forme ou leur couverte', and numbered 20l to 222, they come from the collections of M. de Chalvron, Dr. Pellerin and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, as well as those of Massé and de la Néziére who each had loaned eight pieces.

      Except for a 'Grand Saloir' of a M. de Chalvron, all were thrown on the tour à baton and were, in their forms, representative of many of the objects of daily use traditionally made in the potteries of the region.  Of interest is the fact that it is only in describing those pieces loaned by Massé and de la Neziére that François Guillaume pays attention to the variety of surface finishes attainable during firing in the 'grands fours'.  It does not come as a surprise that, with his increasing interest in the art of the potter, Joseph Massé would have wished to acquire pieces which provided exemplars of proven forms and unique surface qualities.

 

 

Retrospective Joseph Massé and the Exposition Moderne

 

      The exhibition proper was accompanied by two other smaller exhibitions:

 

                       (i)  Retrospective Joseph Massé and

                       (ii) Exposition Moderne.(28)

 

      As for the former, there is nothing in the catalogue to indicate either the number or the type of ware displayed, and the text devoted to Massé's work is brief, though his links with the village are established:

 

                       '...Parti de La Borne, l'artisan de Soye s'est

                       révélé rapidement en céramique aussi indépendant

                       qu'il est dans les autres domaines de son activité;

                       il possède maintenant une forme d'expression originale

                       et précieuse, la qualité de son œuvre en lui donnant

                       accès auprès des meilleurs céramistes français,

                       honore grandement le Berry ...'(29)

 

      While it would be obvious that Guillaume may have felt an obligation to exhibit the work of one who, along with his cousin de la Néziére, had assisted in the furtherance of his aims, the inclusion of his work appears to have fulfilled a greater need.  As far as can now be discovered, Joseph Massé was the first outsider to display an active interest in using the techniques, forms, wheels and kilns of La Borne for the development of his own art and, though he had long since oriented his own researches towards other spheres of influence, his work and his expressed debt and allegience to the village had helped, in a significant way, in bringing that centre and its tradition to public notice.  One would be justified in claiming that Guillaume welcomed the participation of the 'artisan potier de Soye' as providing, like Carriés at Saint Amand-en-Puisaye, an example for others as to how the rich tradition of the village might become a source for personal creative development.

 

      A similar hypothesis might be advanced for the 'Exposition Moderne'.  This was sub-divided into two sections, namely 'Ensemble de vases, coupes, bibelots, dessinés par E. and F. Guillaume et executés a La Borne 'and' Quelques chevaux de Roger Giraud (l0 ans).'(30)  The Guillaume pieces, made in the boutique of Armand Bedu, had been a successful line in the rue des Arénes shop and, insofar as he was able, François Guillaume had tried to vary the forms and decoration in order to give them a flavour in keeping with the taste of his times.  As the photographs of the exhibition reveal, (Fig. ll6) some of the cache-pots, handled and plain, and wide, shallow dishes which Guillaume himself had designed and decorated were on display, mostly on the floor beneath the main stands.  Their inclusion, like that of Massé's ware, could be attributed less to a desire to publicize his own work in the village than to indicate the potential source of creativity that lay there.

 

      The little horses by the ten year old Roger Giraud (Fig. l25) seem at first glance to be an incongruous selection.  Like children everywhere, those of La Borne responded to the malleability of the clay, and continually made small objects which were then fired in the kiln of their elders.  Roger Giraud was one such latent artist in the eyes of François Guillaume.  As has been shown, his interest had been captivated more by the decorative production of the village than by its utilitarian ware.  His perception of the 'art populaire' as having degenerated into 'an art déjà decadent, condamné à mort part l'usage generalisé des moules',(3l) after the 'golden age' of Jacques-Sébastien Talbot and his children, was firmly established.  From this perspective he had no difficulty dismissing as decadent the art of Valentine Chameron. Likewise, while regretting this decline, he found it easy to evoke the memory of Bernard Palissy, and the title conferred on him, in l562, by the French queen, Catherine de Medicis, (32) when in his 'Notes Historiques', he develops his reason for including the work of the young Giraud:

 

                       '...Il n'y a plus maintenant de "faiseur

                       de rustiques figurines" a La Borne, sauf

                       peut-être un enfant qui manifeste déjà un

                       sens observateur certain.  Souhaitons que

                       l'avenir nous réserve en lui un nouvel

                       artisan potier, digne de ses ancêtres ...'(33)

 

      Behind the inclusion of Giraud's pieces, then, there appears to lie a deeper aspiration for the village, the hope that the future might bring with it a renewal, no matter how small, of its earlier inventiveness.

      As he had indicated to the magazine, l'Illustration, he appears to have perceived his l935 exhibition as a solitary event, and his immediate declared aims had been achieved.  He has succeeded in bringing together, for public display and for the first time, some of the 'art populaire' of La Borne and, in so doing, had extended that public to include some of those placed in influential positions in the world of art.  His catalogue notes, in addition to those compiled in his 'Notes' had revealed the paucity of historical information that was then available to him, yet there were already sufficient indications in the letter to suggest that this work might continue.  One would have to await local press reaction, and that of more enlightened commentators, to assess whether his efforts were being perceived as having made any contribution to the history of regional pottery.  His aims had been clearly stated, but others, expressed as hopes and aspirations still remained.  His own active participation with Armand Bedu, both as executant and designer, showed no sign of slackening but, as yet, there was no indication that he himself would play any role in the revival of the decorative art of La Borne.

 

 

Reaction to the exhibition

 

      The impact of the exhibition at local level was immediately recorded by the regional press.  'La Dépêche du Berry', in its report of 6 June, l935, noted that, since many interesting and important pieces of the La Borne production had been conserved in the homes of many long-established families, the village and its potters were well known in the area, 'mais, jusqu'à présent, il ne nous avait pas d'admirer et comparer autant de piéces reunies en un même lieu,' (34)  That such had been possible, the writer argued, could only have been as a result of the enterprise of one who had been born with the gift of organiser,namely, François Guillaume. (35)

 

      'Le Petit Berrichon', in an article.  'A l'Exposition des Poteries de La Borne', in its issue of 8 June, was equally enthusiastic, noting particularly the fact that the occasion had been honoured by the presence of Georges Lechevalier-Chevignard and M. Haumont; 'l'un et l'autre n'ont pas caché leur vive satisfaction'.(36)  The exhibits were described or classified according to type, or the respective journalists drew their readers attention to individual pieces, remarking on their 'finesse d'observation', 'véritable tour de force', 'originalité' and 'naïveté'.(37)  But it was the examples of religious art which, above all, attracted attention.

 

                       '...Ce qui étonne surtout dans ces oeuvres,

                       c'est la pureté de l'exécution et l'on se

                       demande comment les artistes pouvaient y

                       parvenir avec l'outillage rudimentaire dont

                       ils disposaient à cette époque, comme cette

                       magnifique tête de Christ de l'ancien calvaire

                       de La Borne, que l'on croirait réellement

                       moulée...'(38)

 

      Much more erudite was the article 'Les poteries de La Borne', written as part of a series 'L'Art de Nos Provinces' by the regional specialist Louis Lacrocq.  Appearing in the Courrier du Centre, on l9 June, l935, it located the importance of the exhibition, both in its historical context as well as the position that the work of La Borne might hold in the future.

 

                       '...Quand un travail d'ensemble sur les

                       poteries populaires de la France pourra

                       être écrit.  La Borne y apparaîtra dans

                       les premiers rangs ...'(39)

 

      The author, Louis Lacrocq, was the president of the 'Société des Sciences Naturelles et Archéologiques de la Creuse' and had been elected to the post of Treasurer of the Federation des Sociétés Savantes du Centre de la France' at its first congress on 3 June, l934.(40)  This Federation had been formed when fifteen learned societies in the Centre region of France had responded to a proposal made by Lieutenant-Colonel Chenu, at a meeting of the Société de Antiquaires du Centre, in October l932:

 

 

                       '... Réunir dans des Congrès périodiques les

                       érudits d'une même région pour les inviter à

                       confronter leurs travaux et à élargir leur

                       point de vue ...'(4l)

 

       François Guillaume had been accepted for membership of the Société des Antiquaires du Centre on 4 June l930, (42) and the consequent affiliation of that learned body to the larger Federation had placed him, and his archaeological and historical interests, in contact with a correspondingly wider range of kindred spirits, among whom was Louis Lacrocq.  At his home in La Celle Dunoise, he himself had some pieces of La Borne ware and was familiar with the examples to be found in the museums of the region, adding to Guillaume's list, 'à Limoges, le Musée Adrien-Dubouché en posséde quelques-unes très curieuses.'(43)  Writing to Bourges, on 26 May, Lacrocq had informed Guillaume that, following a visit he would be making to Mehun-sur-Yèvre for the First Communion of his grand-daughter, he would be happy to call at the Maison Guillaume to view the pieces.(44)  It was patently as a result of this pre-view that he wrote his comprehensive article.  One can only presume that he was fully briefed on that occasion.  Nevertheless, his article bears the stamp of one who is conversant with the art and history of his region.  Illustrated with a photograph of the épi de faîtage 'Marié et Mariée' (Fig. l20) (Cat. No. 98) Lacrocq ranges widely, if succinctly, across the history of the town of Henrichemont, La Borne and the Talbot dynasty, in an article which could only make a telling impact on his normal readership.  Like the other journalists, he listed the wares and commented with enthusiasm on some individual pieces but, in his opinion, it was the interest and variety of this selection which had astonished many who previously had igored La Borne;  'Elle a enchanté ceux qui connaissaient et appréciaient cette céramique aux couleurs délicates: cendre, roux, vert bronze, jaune foncé ... L'expression est souvent gauche; elle n'en donne que plus de saveur à la verve tantôt sentimentale, tantôt railleuse, de ces artisans'. (45)

 

      It is his final paragraph, however, that delves beyond the immediacy of the occasion, to clarify its unique character and to identify its importance in a wider cultural context:

 

                       '... M. et Mme. Guillaume viennent de rendre

                       un signalé service à l'histoire de l'art

                       populaire par leur intelligente initiative et

                       nous avons grand plaisir à leur en faire

                       d'amicaux compliments.  Quelques pages avaient

                       été écrites sur les poteries de La Borne dans

                       le Bulletin Monumentale de l869, dans l'Histoire

                       de la principauté de Boisbelle d'H. Boyer (l904).

                       Elles faisaient prévoir ce que l'étude détaillée

                       de cet art "naïf et malicieux" réserve de

                       passionnant.  L'Exposition de Bourges en a montré,

                       par ses produits mêmes, l'exceptionelle saveur ...'(46)

 

      In addition to the local and regional press, Jacques Gervais' review in 'Comoedia' was bringing knowledge of La Borne to a wider readership.  As a writer for a journal accustomed to reporting on the world of the arts at national and international level, Gervais set his review in the context of an event which, at the time, was already exercising the thoughts and energies of the nation, and the significance of which Albert Laprade had already indicated.

 

                       '... Est-ce l'approche de l'Exposition de l937,

                       dont M. Paul-Léon disait qu'elle serait une

                       exposition française qui aurait pour thème essentiel

                       l'artisanat, que de toutes parts de la vie provinciale

                       rajeunit et recherche parmi ses souvenirs artistiques

                       et la présence de ses artistes, l'affirmation d'un

                       caractère propre ...'(47)

 

      It is evident that, writing for a readership as yet unaware of this regional pottery centre, Gervais felt constrained to briefly describe both the utilitarian ware as well as the 'art populaire' of 'ces artistes campagnards, dont les successeurs, les actuels potiers de La Borne sont venus tous voir ces vieux grès, jaunes, gris et roux, ceux-ci comme caramelisés à la patine indéfinissable'. (48)  Perhaps his own unfamiliarity with the pottery of the region had led to his being swayed by the presence of a number of female names, both in the catalogue and signed on some of the pieces, to reach the following conclusion when, speaking of the great potting families of the village, he writes;

 

                       '... Elles sont souvent anonymes, mais la

                       tradition nous apprend que c'étaient généralement

                       des femmes qui, une fois leur tâche journalière

                       accomplie, façonnaient: pots à sàler, pichets ...

                       tous les objets familiers ...' (49)

 

      Though women did contribute to the production of the utilitarian ware at La Borne, they worked primarily as 'anseuse', that is, they had the responsibility of adding handles to those pieces thrown on the 'tour à baton' by men and, as later research would reveal, the perpetuation of the 'art populaire' depended almost equally on male and female members of successive generations of the Talbot dynasty.  It is also evident that, in slightly paraphrasing Guillaume's belief stated in the introduction to the catalogue - 'la longue tâche journalière achevée'     (50) - he too supposed that the decorative wares on display were merely the outcome of an activity exercised in the potters' spare time.  This conclusion was contrary to that opinion which Favière was later to express

                                   '... Ces pièces ne se situent pas 'en

                                   marge', comme on l'a écrit, d'une

                                   production utilitaire courante; elles en

                                   sont le complément normal qui fait du

                                   potier le premier fournisseur de l'existence

                                   quotidienne ...'(5l)

 

      The reception by the press could only have been encouraging for Guillaume who, by then, must have been realising that, having achieved one of his primary aims, other, perhaps unforeseen advantages were beginning to accrue.  Louis Lacrocq's mention of the 'very curious pieces' of La Borne ware in the Musée Adrien-Dubouche at Limoges may have been a modest, if significant, addition to Guillaume's store of information, but equally so was the iconographical interpretation of one of the exhibits, described in the catalogue (No. 22) as 'Epi de faîtage pour la maison d'un maréchal-ferrant'.(52)  This piece, had been bought by the museum in l883 and had been the subject of the lengthy verbal and visual description in Guillaume's personal notes, the 'severed hoof' being interpreted by him as resulting solely from an inadequacy of skill on the part of the potter.  Without revealing his source, the writer of the review which appeared in La Dépêche du Berry identified it as 'un episode miraculeux de Saint Eloi'. (53)