CHAPTER XX

 

RENAISSANCE DE LA BORNE

 

 

      With the cessation of hostilities in France and ultimately in Europe, there was the imperative for François Guillaume that he should begin to reconstruct his normal commercial activity, now that all his original suppliers were once more returning to peace-time production.  But it was also a period in which he was able to devote more of his energies to those other aspects of La Borne which appear to have been pushed into the background for almost six years, though his 'Notes' do contain a few references to research made during the war.

 

      In November l945, Louise Berchon once more made contact with him, reviving a number of issues that had been of interest to both prior to the outbreak of the war.  Of these, one referred to the possibility of the production of a book devoted to the pottery of La Borne.  The desirability of promoting a wider diffusion of knowledge of the wares had been at the base of every action he had undertaken on behalf of the village and, as has already been demonstrated, he himself had initially started to organise his own 'Notes' in a format which suggests that he had contemplated undertaking the task himself.  Raoul Toscan's review of the l935 exhibition had underscored the significance of the contribution which it had made to the study of 'art populaire', and from the contents of a letter which he wrote to Guillaume on 29 November l936, it is evident that they had earlier discussed the value of such a written study:

 

                       '... Si jamais vous faites paraître l`étude

                       que vous avez en projet soyez persuadé que

                       le Bibliothèque de Nevers y souscrit ...' (l)

 

      In l935, Louise Berchon had been magnanimous in her praise for the venture, and this had not diminished in the decade that had elapsed:

 

                       '... Si un jour il y avait une souscription

                       pour un livre sur La Borne, je me mets sur

                       les rangs ...' (2)

 

      That she had discussed such a project with others at some time during the intervening years is demonstrated by an undated letter which she had received from a friend, a Monsieur Pierre Landron of Henrichemont, and which she had forwarded to Guillaume.  Though primarily devoted to historical facts which Landron had previously discussed with her, he also included some references, notably those of Arcis de Caumont's in the 'Bulletin Monumentale' of l869 and Hippolyte Boyer's history of Boisbelle-Henrichemont, concluding in relation to the latter:

 

                       '... puis qu'il ne contient que cinq pages,

                       mais il semble consciencieusement fait et

                       pourrait utilement servir de guide pour

                       l'histoire que projete votre ami ...' (3)

 

      Since l937, when the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires had initially shown an interest in La Borne, its only activity in that field had been the technological research conducted by Marcel Maget.  Following the presentation of the report in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in l942, (4) nothing further appears to have been initiated by it or any other body, though, as Duchartre's letters to Guillaume had shown, the staff of the newly formed institution was constrained by work in other fields.  In addition, they, like Guillaume, would have been impeded by shortages and restrictions occasioned by War and the Occupation.  From information compiled in his 'Notes' during the years immediately succeeding World War II, it is evident that Guillaume re-commenced his research, and it becomes apparent that he had identified a number of issues which he pursued simultaneously for some years.  These can be sub-divided into four categories, each of which corresponds to the aims that he had started to articulate in his letters and catalogue of l935:

 

l.  The Preservation of the Traditional Wares;

 

2.  Historical Research;

 

3.  Classification of styles;

 

4.  Reflections and conclusions.

 

 

l.  The Preservation of the Traditional Wares

 

    This, in turn, can be sub-divided into three categories :

 

           (a) His personal collection: Although François Guillaume's aim in collecting the pieces had been, 'éviter que soient dédaignées et détruites les oeuvres si originales de La Borne,' (5) he had never, except in a few instances, recorded either his finds or purchases.  However, one which is recorded in his 'Notes',  accompanied by a simple sketch of the piece, is the white pichet   bearing the inscription 'Brot appartien ˆ moi Baujar l83l -  Jacques Sébastien Talbot.' (Fig.252) see also (Fig. l6) 

         At the foot of the page he had written 'marché Avenue de Suffren,  1949, 400 francs.' (6)

  When he addressed himself to the analysis discussed in '3'

           below, this pichet was included, and his collection, eventually

           to be in excess of one hundred pieces, then contained fifty-six

           items.

 

           (b) The identification of other collectors and interested parties.

 

              For the latter, 'Personnes intéressés par La Borne' (7),

           he had compiled a list of many of those who had contributed

           items for his l935 exhibition, gradually augmenting it to

           include others whose interest or collections had come to his

           attention.  From this and other information it is evident that

           he was motivated by the constant concern for preservation, and

           from the recorded dates it is equally evident that he

           assiduously followed up every lead over a number of years.

           These dates suggest that he commenced this task in the late

           forties, and in relation to one name, a 'Monsieur Pérès ˆ

           Clémont sur Sauldre' he had written 'Je lui a écrit vainement.'

           (8)  Elsewhere in his papers, some notes and letters show the

           extent to which he went in his efforts to trace M. Pérès,

           eventually being able to record doing so in Paris, 'Vu chez

           M. Pérès le 20 Sept. l960 une collection des pichets de

           La Borne.' (9)  In this instance, the time expended was

           exceptional, other references in his 'Notes' showing that he

           had succeeded in viewing most other collections by the early

           nineteen fifties.

 

           (c) The recording of 'croix de carrefour' and épis de faîtage'

           still remaining in the region.

              Dated entries show that he had embarked on this kind of

           activity in the early thirties, one of the first being

           his acquisition of the 'Croix Montigny' in l934, and

           continued until l95l.  Most of the crosses appear to

           have been noted by the time of his l935 exhibition, but

           by l95l he had located twenty-eight épis de faîtage,

           noting their locations and either briefly describing

           or making a comment:

 

          '... Il y avait aussi vers l935 ˆ Menetou-Salon,

           un épi de faîtage au laboureur en excellent état

          mais il a été enlevé dès que j'ai fait une

          demande pour l'acquerir ...' (l0)

 

        In relation to that in the Musée du Berry, which illustrated

        the legend of Saint Eloi, he had noted:

 

          '... Avril l94l ... Il existe une replique de cet

          épi sur une maison située sur la route de Boisbelle

          à Jars entre Breviande et les fonds de Varley ...' (ll)

 

 

2.        Historical Research

 

         In the first instance he was attempting to compile a list of

    'Les Potiers de la Borne,' (l2) and for Guillaume the most important

    figures would have been the members of the Talbot family.  Some

    little information had been recorded by the time he produced his

    l935 catalogue, but by resorting to the funerary momuments in

    Limoges, signed and dated pieces accessible, and information

    extracted from the writings of Boyer, de Kersers, de Caumont and

    Charles de Laugardière, he completed 'Les dates de La Borne,' (l3)

    as well as his list of potters.  His 'Notes' depict the difficulties

    he encountered in attempting to construct the genealogical table

    of the Talbot Dynasty, difficulties created by the names of females

   changing on marriage, husbands hyphenating that of their new               spouse to their own, and 'leurs prénoms identiques: Jacques, Jean,     Denis,Pierre, François, répétés de générations en générations,         rendront nécessaire l'usage de sobriquets individuels.' (l4) (Fig. 253)

 

            By the late l940's he had identified almost all of the most

   important names from the past but does appear to have succeeded     in determining the correct order of the Talbot family tree.  His final

    entry was made in l962 at the time of the exhibition "Potiers en

    Terre" du Haut-Berry when, 'Selon Favière', he had copied out the

    list of names, with their dates, that had accrued from the research

    mounted by the conservator of the Musée du Berry. (l5)  The quality

    of his script, progressively deteriorating towards the bottom of

    the page is itself a poignant reminder of the illness which had

    already taken hold of him, and which was to inexorably deprive him

    of his faculties until his death in l969.

 

          One entry merits special mention, that which he devoted to the

    pichet by Jean Chenu, who 'a fait et signé en l832 une des plus

    belles pièces que je connaisse de La Borne'. (l6)  This had been

    corrected to read 'de la région de La Borne.'  The full inscription

    on the body of the pichet reads 'fait p(ar moi) Jean Chenu / fils de

    François Chenu tous deux p(ot)ier en terre de' with a continuation

    on the base 'l832 / je vous dire que / voilla un Bros qui / aies

    fait par Moix / potier en terre deme/urant / aux Grande Poterie /

    paroisse d'humbligny can/ton d'hanrichemont de / part Mant du

    Chairre l832'. (Fig. 254) See also (Fig.21)  Of this pichet, Favière         was   later to  write:

 

                       '... La personnalité d'un Jean Chenu est

                       affirmée par le splendide pichet de la collection

                       de François Guillaume.  Si l'influence de

                       Jacques-Sébastien Talbot, cousin de l'auteur,

                       est manifeste notamment dans la faon de traiter

                       la chevelure, les proportions de l'objet,

                       l'acuité du décor, la richesse de la couverte

                       à fort dosage d'oxyde de fer en font un chef-

                       d'oeuvre de l'art populaire franaise ...' (l7)

 

          It is not known exactly when Guillaume made either the entry

    or the correction, though it must have been in the early fifties

    after it had come into his possession.  The significance of the

    change is a suggestion, no matter how slight, that he was beginning

    to realise that the production of the decorative wares had not been

    restricted to La Borne and the Talbots exclusively.

 

 

3.        Classification of Styles

 

          Since the pichet by Jacques-Sébastien Talbot which he bought

    in l949 is included, there is every reason to presume that he must

    have attempted this exercise shortly after that date.  Commencing

    with sixty-four pieces, eight of which did not belong to his own

    collection, he stated his rationale:

 

                       '... La tentative de définition des différentes

                       manières amene tout naturellement àrechercher

                       les differents auteurs.  Chaque potier a eu son

                       style.  Il ne semble pas qu'il y ait des écoles

                       car les potiers imagiers ont été relativement

                       peu nombreux ...' (l8)

 

          The glaze of each piece was recorded and, as the 'Notes

    Techniques' in the l935 catalogue had shown, this had been a

    criterion he had used to assign particular pieces to specific

    periods.  In this instance, he sub-divided them according to style

    and attempted to make attribution of some unsigned pieces to

    individual potters, notably Jacques-Sébastien and Marie Talbot,

    though he was careful to point out, 'Il y a doute pour toutes les

    pièces qui ne sont pas signées: Elles sont la majorité.' (l9)

    Though unaware of it at the time, he had already amassed a

    considerable number of pieces by Jean Talbot, but these and many

    others were listed in categories defined by content :

 

                       Inconnu aux animaux

                       Inconnu aux feuilles

                       Inconnu aux petits personnages

                       Inconnu aux masques

                       Inconnu aux dentelles

                       Inconnu aux chevelures. (20)

 

4.        Reflections and Conclusions

 

          Though Guillaume's interest had been restricted exclusively

    to La Borne, his reflection over the Chenu pichet had obviously

    made him realise that other centres of production of decorative

    wares had existed, and his comprehension that this was so was

    confirmed when he followed up some information, supplied once           moreby Louise Berchon.

 

          In his 'Dates de La Borne', Guillaume had included a

    reference to Charles de Laugardière's 'Document inédit pour servir

    àl'histoire de la céramique, etc.' :

 

                      '... Xllle. siècle.  Les poteries d'Achères

                       étaient, dit Ch. de Laugardière, en activité

                       (Art. du Centre, Vol. III p. l6l)

                       Il écrit, page l6l, note (l) "la fabrique

                       actuelle de poteries d'Achères" qui figure

                       " dans l'almanach Bottin ...' (2l)

 

          As though with surprise, Guillaume had underlined the word

    "actuelle".  There is every likelihood that the entry was made in

    the thirties, since he was at that time in communication with

    Louise Berchon about the centre.  In her letter of l2 July l935 she

    had written 'Dès mon arrivé dans le Berry j'irai au cimetière des

    Poteries d'Achères et à mon l.e. voyage à Bourges, j'irai vous

    voir.' (22)  Clarification of the point in question came in a

    further letter of l2 August, 'au moment de vous envoyer le nom de la

    personne qui pouvait vous donner les renseignements aux Poteries

    d'Achères pour les fameux papiers j'ai eu des indécisions et hier

    j'y suis allée en promenade.'  She had been unable to trace the

    documents 'n'ayant pu recontrer M. Gillet', but his daughter had

    promised to search for them 's'ils existent!' (23)  Despite this

    setback she was able to report:

 

                       l.  Two épis de faîtage which had been there,

                       'Le roi a été cassé et La Reine est en

                       possession de M. Gillet.  Très grossière

                       poterie mais intacte.'

 

                       2.  There had been five or six potters at

                       Achères, working with one kiln. 'Un

                       Talbot de Le Borne est venu s'etablir

                       potier et avait épousé une Talbot.  Il

                       n'est donc pas étonnant que les poteries

                       présentent une ressemblance avec celles de

                       La Borne.  La fille de ce Talbot habite

                       encore Les Poteries - au dessous du

                       Boulanger.' (24)

 

          She was able to furnish more information two weeks later when

    she could inform him that Mlle. Gillet had directed her to 'les

    époux Talbot dont les parents ont été les derniers propriétaires du

    four', and that in the cemetery at Achères there was a ceramic cross

    on the tomb of the father of Madame Talbot. (25)  Guillaume did not

    visit the location at the time, most likely because Louise Berchon

    advised against it, adding that she would persist in her attempts

    to trace the papers.  It would appear that these were of more

    interest to him at the time since he did not visit Achères until

    6 May l95l, following which he recorded all the details in his

    'Notes.' (26)  The only person left in Achères with any

    recollections of the pottery activity was Lucie Talbot whose

    father, Frederic, had been the last potter in Achères when activity

    ceased around l890 - l892.  Guillaume had been able to trace both

    the site of the kiln and clay beds, giving precise indications as to

    their locations, and was given a three litre milk jug by Lucie

    Talbot, and was shown another.  These, along with some sherds

    which he unearthed close to the remains of the kiln, allowed him to

    conclude, 'Il y a grande similitude avec le grès de La Borne mais

    l'exécution en serait plutôt plus soignée ... Ils sont beaucoup

    plus légers, tournés plus minces, et montrent des formes des bec

    plus accentués, des reliefs plus marqués.' (27)  In the cemetery,

    he made a sketch of the cross 'faite par Frederic Talbot pour la

   tombe de sa femme ou de sa belle soeur (actuellement sur la tombe

    de la belle soeur) (Fig. 255) en l89l donc dans les toutes dernières

    années  de l'industrie des poteries d'Achères.' (28)  The exercise

    was to make a significant contribution to the understanding of the

    'art populaire' of the region, since he noted 'il faudrait essayer

    de préciser l'origine de quelques pièces qui maintenant sont

    confondues avec celles de La Borne.' (29)  His conclusion, which

    makes interesting reading, obviously established the base from

    which Jean Favière and his collaborators could work when

    researching for the exhibition "Potiers en Terre" du Haut-Berry:

 

                       '... En résumé il devient évident que les

                       trois centres de La Borne, d'Achères et

                       d'Humbligny ont en une production artistique

                       populaire.  Il n'est pas sûr que La Borne ait

                       été le principal centre car une faible partie

                       des pièces sont signées et le pot de Chenu à

                       Humbligny reste une des pièces les plus

                       originales de la région.

                                   Il faudrait donc dire, non pas, poterie

                       de La Borne mais poterie de la région de La

                       Borne ou mieux encore "poteries de la région

                       d'Henrichemont" jusqu'à ce qu'on ait pu

                       préciser les siècles de chaque centre par des

                       échantillons certains ...' (30)

 

      At this juncture the question must be posed: 'Why did François Guillaume not write a book on La Borne?'  It was still in his thoughts in l96l when, for a series of articles devoted to the region, he was briefly interviewed by a journalist from the magazine 'Elle' (Fig. 256) who declared, 'Il vient d'achever un livre sur les "Poteries de La Borne.' (3l)  It has already been shown that, by that date, he was already in the grips of an increasingly debilitating malady.  A more feasible reason for neglecting the task is that in l950, following the research already accomplished by the Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires, the Musée du Berry, under the direction of the recently appointed conservator, Jean Favière, had initiated the research programme that was to culminate in the exhibition 'Potiers en Terre' du Haut-Berry twelve years later.  This time scale is itself indicative of the enormity of the task, even for an institution manned by experienced museologists, and having access to many departmental and state resources.  It is surely no mere coincidence that the bulk of Guillaume's entries in his 'Notes' cease to be made in the early nineteen fifties, and one feels justified in drawing the conclusion that, secure in the conviction that the past, present, and future of the potteries of the region of Henrichemont were at last recognised 'dans des milieux officiels', (32) he could contribute his expertise to the venture; a collaboration facilitated by the location of the Musée du Berry, literally just across the street from his premises in rue des Arènes.  Favière, in according 'une place toute spéciale, à Monsieur et Madame François Guillaume', acknowledged the role already played before he and his staff became involved:

 

                       '... Mais l'intert suscité par les potiers

                        et la poterie de grès de La Borne n'aurait

                       pas atteint le niveau que nous lui

                       connaissons sans les efforts continus

                       d'Elisabeth et François Guillaume.  Amateurs

                       de toutes belles choses et spécialement de

                       céramiques précieuses et rares, ils

                       s'efforcent d'en faire partager le goût au

                       public de Bourges, d'informer celui-ci en

                       lui montrant dans leur beau magasin de la

                       rue des Arènes le fruit de leurs quêtes

                       pleines de deliction.  Dans leur exposition

                       de l935, ils dressent le premier bilan

                       méthodique de l'oeuvre d'art populaire de

                       La Borne en groupant autour de la

                       remarquable collection qu'ils ont eux -

                       mêmes réunie, de nombreux objets dont

                       beaucoup sont aujourd'hui de nouveau ici

                       rassemblés ...' (33)

 

      But before being able to view many pieces of Guillaume's collection, the public did not have to await l962 when, in making the above comment, Jean Favière presented more than five hundred works, accompanied by an extensive catalogue replete with documentation and comment, the outcome of his research.  In l953, Guillaume loaned thirty four pieces for 'Arts et Traditions populaires en Berry', an exhibition presented in the Musée du Berry, at the same time as the work of La Borne was featuring in 'Objets domestiques des provinces de France dans la vie familiale et les arts ménagers', organised in Paris by the Musée Nationale des Arts et Traditions Populaires. (34)

 

      In a section of the l962 exhibition devoted to 'L'Aube d'un Age Nouveau', Favière had included examples of works by Massé, Chollet, Beyer and Guillaume himself, accompanied by those of Jean and Jacqueline Lerat, and André Rozay,  whom Guillaume had brought to the village.  In addition, pieces produced by seventeen others were on display.  Seven were from 'l'Ecole des Beaux Arts de Bourges ... ` Jean Lerat y enseigne en compagnie de son cadet Raymond Legrand.  De son côté, la jeune et courageuse colonie de La Borne a progressé.  Certains s'y sont fixés: A Rozay, Yvanoff, E. Joulia, Yves et Monique Mohy, D'autres ont essaimé: Jean et Jacqueline ont bâti un four à Bourges où le bas-berrichon Michel Lévêque les a rejoint; Anne Kjaersgaad et Jean Linard ont entrepris de faire revivre la poterie à Neuvy-Deux-Clochers.' (35)

 

      The kiln which Jean and Jacqueline Lerat had built in Bourges had been constructed when they had decided to leave La Borne in l955.  It was a time when Guillaume made his final entry for new artists who were arriving to establish workshops in the village:

 

                       '... l955 Mohy s'installe àLa Borne d'en haut

                       (le four n'est pas encore construit)...' (36)

 

      Following Ivanoff, Pierre Mestre had arrived in l947, accompanied by Anne Petroff.  For a brief period, they worked together in the atelier left vacant in l946 by Guillaume before Petroff left, and Mestre bought an atelier in La Borne d'en haut. (37)  Born in Lozère in l9l9, he had studied painting, and had an atelier in Paris when he became interested in ceramics - by chance! (38)  A friend had spoken to him about the pottery of Beauvaisis, and though his first work was devoted to the production of faïence (39) he had been struck by 'cette matière de Beyer', (40) whose work he had seen in an exhibition in Paris.  Thirty years later, by which time he had just recently left La Borne, Chaton was to write of him:

 

                       '... Batisseur autant que potier, il utilise

                       toutes les possibilités qu'offre la glaise

                       pour la décoration murale et l'ornementation

                       architecturale ...(Fig. 257)

                       Son atelier est ouvert à de jeunes

                       stagiaires venant de tous les coins du

                       monde ...' (4l)

 

      In l949, an entry in Guillaume's 'Notes' reads:

 

                       '... Babeth Joulia: Elévè de l'école des

                        Beaux Arts de Bourges.  Travaille dans

                       l'atelier que j'avais loué pendant la guerre

                       pour Jean Lerat and Jacqueline Bouvet ...' (42)

 

      Later additions were to record the stages of her taking up permanent residence:

 

                       '... Vu l Nov l949 - Avait du talent,

                       semble en avoir moins.

                       Cuit chez les potiers qui veulent

                       bien accepter ses pièces

 

                       Vu le 8 Juin l952 - A construit un four

                       carré dans son atelier ...' (43)

 

      Born in the Pays de Dôme in l925, she embarked on her artistic studies in Clermont-Ferrand, close to her home town, Riom.  Following two years of drawing, painting, modelling and stonecarving, she went to Paris to study fresco painting.  For reasons both personal and financial, she left Paris after one year and enrolled as a student in the Beaux Arts in Bourges, where she encountered Jean Lerat.  Visiting him and his wife in La Borne, she discovered, like Mestre, the material which was to remain her chosen medium.

 

                       '... Les matériaux de la terre correspondaient

                       bien avec moi pour le travail d'extérieur, de

                       grandes choses. J'ai beaucoup aimé les matériaux

                       du grès ...' (44)

 

      She arrived in La Borne just as Picasso's work in Vallauris had become well known 'c'était une découverte fantastique parce que, d'abord, ça me intéressait beaucoup de ce qu'il faisait en peinture ... il a cassé la notion pour moi de la symétrie ... la dysymétrie m'a crée immediatement le mouvement, ce que j'ai toujours continué à faire en montant en columbin plutôt qu'en tournant des choses ... et de les deformées après ...' (45) (Fig. 258i,258ii)

 

      There is nothing in Guillaume's 'Notes' or other papers to inform us whether or not he perceived such figures as the 'émules' he had long since desired, but there is no doubt that he reaslised that a 'renouveau' had taken place in the village when, returning to a practice discontinued since l938, he mounted an exhibition, 'Renaissance', in his shop in December l948. (Fig. 259i,259ii)  In two distinct parts, one `Renaissance` was the optimistic re-establishment of the 'Maison Guillaume' as a stockist for quality glass, cutlery, ceramics and porcelain, with products of Baccarat, Christofle, Daum, Lalique, Puiforcat, Jean Sala and porcelain from Limoges and the Berrichon factories.

 

      Equally optimistic was the other exhibition, 'Renaissance de La Borne', with a section devoted 'en hommage à ceux qui ont permis cette renaissance.  Retrospective de Jacques Sébastien Talbot, Marie Talbot, Joseph Massé and Paul Beyer.' (46)  For Guillaume, the pioneers of this renewal in the village were undoubtedly Les Lerats, Rozay, Ivanoff and Gütte Eriksen:

 

                       '... Rosay ... de son côté, travaille àla

                       renomée de La Borne ...' (47)

 

                       '... Ivanoff ... ce revolutionnaire est un

                       potier sage ... Ses audaces peuvent étonner;

                       ses monstres qui semblent appartenir àun

                       autre âge, àune autre civilisation sont

                       de La Borne, avant lui les potiers berrichons

                       ont fait des monstres, IVANOFF Les habile

                       à sa façon ...' (48)

 

      His brief four page catalogue accepts unquestioningly Jean Lerat and Jacqueline Bouvet - Lerat as they who had 'l'honneur de révéler le flambeau.'

 

                       '... Ils ajoutent à l'élément naïf et simple

                       de la tradition une connaissance plus précise

                       et plus complète des formes.  Une culture

                       artistique plus étendue, un plus grand soin

                       dans les cuissons; mais ne retrouve t-on pas

                       dans les oeuvres de ce jeune ménage de potiers,

                       la fantaisie, la variété, la probité qui furent

                       essentiellement caractéristiques des production

                       anciennes ...' (49)

 

      A special place is reserved for Gütte Eriksen.  Not only does Guillaume describe the transformation which had taken place in her work during her stay, 'les pièces terminées la veille de son départ ont perdu de la grâce, mais gagné de la force; le grès de La Borne est une matière mâle', but he obviously sees her as a harbinger of other 'emules' still to come:

 

                       '... Des potiers anglais sont attendus, ils

                       ne seront pas les premiers, dit-on, les

                       TALBOT étaient d'origine écossaise, mais

                       comptons aussi sur les fils de notre Berry

                       où la céramique reste àl'honneur depuis

                       tant de siècles pour parfaire et enrichir

                       cette 'Renaissance de LA BORNE ...' (50)