RENAISSANCE DE LA BORNE : A STUDY OF THE PERIOD OF TRANSITION FROM TRADITIONAL POTTERY-MAKING VILLAGE TO CENTRE OF CONTEMPORARY CERAMIC CREATION
Patrick M. McCoy, B.A. (Hons. l)
A thesis submitted in candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
The University of Dublin: Trinity College,
Faculty of Arts, Department of the History of Art
© Copyright : Patrick M. Mc Coy, 1990
I The Potteries of the region of Henrichemont (Cher): An historical Overview
II The 'Art Populaire' of La Borne: The decorative production of the Talbot Dynasty
III The development of academic and cultural interest in La Borne and the Talbots since the nineteenth century.
IV The Berry-Nivernais region in the inter-war years: Decline and survival
V Joseph Massé : 'Artisan-Potier' of Soye-en-Septaine
VI François Guillaume: Background, youth and introduction into the world of ceramics
VII François Guillaume and La Borne: On the threshold of renewal
VIII The Guillaume exhibition of June, l935
IX The organisation of the exhibition
X The exhibition catalogue
XI The exhibits and reaction to the exhibition
XII The l935 exhibition and long-term reaction - The years l935 to the second world war
XIII François Guillaume and renewal at La Borne
XIV Renewal at La Borne: Late l94l to l942
XV Renewal at La Borne: l943
XVI Renewal at La Borne: l944
XVII Renewal at La Borne: l945
XVIII La Borne: The arrival of Vassil Ivanoff
XIX Jean and Jacqueline Lerat: Post l945
XX Renaissance de La Borne
I wish to thank all those who assisted in any way in furthering this research. In particular, my gratitude must be expressed to Professor Anne Crookshank, for her helpful comments, careful reading of the text and, not least, her tolerance.
To name all those who helped along the way would be unnecessarily cumbersome, and they are acknowledged individually in the text. However, I am particularly indebted to the Guillaume family of Bourges, Madame Elisabeth Guillaume, Etienne and Brigitte Guillaume and the late Pierre-Charles Guillaume, for their unfailing courtesy and hospitality, and for making accessible the papers of François Guillaume. At Soye-en-Septaine, a similar welcome and facility was extended by M. and Mme. Froissard, while in Bourges and La Borne, Jean and Jacqueline Lerat, and André and Lucille Rozay, devoted many hours to recollecting events of almost half a century ago. In both La Borne and Paris, Mlle. Denise Roux, acting on behalf of the Association Vassil Ivanoff, afforded me unstinting assistance and advice.
Finally, I would like to record my appreciation for the care and attention which Mrs. Patricia Kane has devoted to typing the text.
This thesis is entirely my own work and
has not previously been submitted to
the University of Dublin, or another
University, as an exercise for a degree.
The study was stimulated by a desire to understand why a small traditional pottery village in central France, La Borne, was transformed into one of the most significant centres of contemporary ceramic creation. Though extinct for almost three decades, the centuries old traditional craft had witnessed, notably during the nineteenth century, the creation of a form of folk ceramics, now universally acknowledged as a popular art of considerable distinction. Other than the research of the traditional craft and its productions, undertaken before and after the Second World War by the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaire and the Musée du Berry, no attempt has been made to record and explain the events that occurred during the period of transition and which led to this renaissance, the knowledge that exists being largely that of an oral tradition, more recently included in a book compiled by a writer on local affairs.
The present study has thus initiated research into this field, and in the process has succeeded in uncovering most, if not all, of the most valuable records and documentation relevant to the events, and the personalities involved, of the years of the transition, that is, l920 to l950 approximately. Obtained by interviewing surviving participants or close relatives, gaining access to private family papers, and by research in public archives, it has been possible to reconstruct the period, while clarifying the contribution made by each of those who played a role in the renaissance of La Borne.
It will be demonstrated that this renaissance was enacted in two stages, the first being that in which, during an epoch when the stimulus given by the interest in 'Art Populaire' was at its strongest in France, La Borne and its artistic heritage attracted the attention of a small number of artists, pedagogues and amateurs. For reasons both personal and professional their contribution to the survival of La Borne varied in accordance with their personal interests, some becoming either connoisseurs or collectors of the traditional wares, others using it as a source of location for their creative work in ceramics.
Above all, it was a young businessman from nearby Bourges, François Guillaume, whose interests embraced both of these categories, and who was responsible for the second phase. Making some pottery and small sculpted masks in one of the traditional workshops, he eventually conceived, directed and acted out, over a period of thirty years, a complex, orchestrated programme that was designed to preserve and have recognized the 'art populaire' of the village. Today his collection of the folk ceramics of La Borne is the most representative of its kind, and such wares, now adequately researched, are eagerly sought after by collectors and museums.
In addition, he resolved that La Borne, to him an important part of the regional and national patrimony, should witness a renewal of its former creative life. Having failed to achieve this from within its traditional fraternity, he established his own workshop where, working in collaboration with a young sculptor, he created a precedent that was to be followed by many others, and has ensured the perpetuation of La Borne as a centre where the creation of a ceramic art would flourish.
To avoid unnecessary repetition, the titles of exhibitions and their respective catalogues have been abbreviated, after their initial mention in the text or in the notes, by using a key word and/or date to identify them, thus:
'l775-l875 Un Siècle d'Art Populaire berrichon … La Borne (près Henrichemont, Cher), Bourges, June l935' becomes 'Un Siècle, l935'.