February 25, 2007

Houtin

Mascaron de Feu,' ('Mask of Fire'), an etching from the album 'Les Quatre Eléments ou La Fête à Versailles' ('The Four Elements, or, the Fête at Versailles') by François Houtin, 1988.The French printmaker François Houtin (1950- ) is an artist whose work has been devoted almost exclusively to the depiction of imaginary gardens. Houtin was born and grew up in Craon, near Mayenne, in the rural Haut-Anjou region. He moved to Paris in 1971, from which time he worked as a gardener and floral designer, while training to become a landscape architect. Finding his horticultural visions at odds with real-world constraints, he sought alternative means of bringing them to life, and began studying etching and engraving at evening-classes under the direction of Jean Delpech, who also trained such notable printmakers as Phillipe Mohlitz and Erik Desmazières.

Detail from 'Entrée Ouest du Jardin des Délices' ('Western Entrance to the Garden of Delights') an etching/drypoint by François Houtin, 1979. Detail from 'Entrée Nord du Jardin des Délices' ('Northern Entrance to the Garden of Delights') an etching/drypoint by François Houtin, 1979.
Detail from 'Passiflore,' an etching by François Houtin, 1980. Detail from 'Jardin de Silence,' an etching by François Houtin, 1980.

Houtin’s first album of etchings, Vie Folle, Folle Vie, Débile was published in 1976. His early prints have an overt surrealism about them which gradually faded as his style evolved and matured. Other publications followed, notably the series of forty etchings Jardins, which appeared in 1978. The year after that, Houtin quit his day-job and became a full-time artist. Since then, there have been many exhibitions of his work in Europe and North America, and several more publications, including: Topiaire (1980); Cinq Jardins, Cinq Sens (1982); Fantaises Romaines (1985); Les Quatre Eléments ou La Fête à Versailles (1988); Les Cabanes de Jardinier (1999) and Nymphées (2002).

Detail from 'Le Goût,' ('Taste') an etching from the album 'Cinq Jardins Cinq Sens' ('Five Gardens Five Senses') by François Houtin, 1981. Detail from 'L'Odorat,' ('Smell') an etching from the album 'Cinq Jardins Cinq Sens' ('Five Gardens Five Senses') by François Houtin, 1981.
Detail from 'Nostalgie Nº 1,' an etching by François Houtin, 1982. Detail from 'Nostalgie Nº 2,' an etching by François Houtin, 1983.

Also in 2002, a complete Catalogue Raisonné of Houtin’s work was published: a joint effort by Richard Reed Armstrong Fine Art (Chicago) and the Galerie Michèle Broutta (Paris). I obtained a copy of this catalogue a few days ago, which has been my source for the images here. I’m grateful to Peacay, of Bibliodyssey renown, for introducing me to the work of this artist, nicely described by his friend and collaborator Gilbert Lascault as ‘the printmaker-gardener, the draughtsman-nurseryman, the demanding dreamer, the landscape artist, and the arboriculturalist-etcher.’ These images are all copyright © François Houtin, and have been reproduced without permission, only for as long as no-one objects to their presence on this site.

Detail from 'La Rêve' ('The Dream'), an etching by François Houtin, 1986. Detail from 'Rêve Nº 2' ('Dream Nº 2'), an etching by François Houtin, 1986.
Detail from '8e Cabane de Jardinier,' ('8th Gardener's Hut'), an etching from the album 'Les Cabanes de Jardinier' ('The Gardener's Huts') by François Houtin, 1999. Detail from '10e Cabane de Jardinier,' ('10th Gardener's Hut'), an etching from the album 'Les Cabanes de Jardinier' ('The Gardener's Huts') by François Houtin, 1999.

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Mascaron de la Terre,' ('Mask of the Earth'), an etching from the album 'Les Quatre Eléments ou La Fête à Versailles' ('The Four Elements, or, the Fête at Versailles') by François Houtin, 1988.

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Posted by misteraitch at February 25, 2007 09:42 PM
Comments

As I'm just back from the Carolinas and all gardens are buried in white here, it is delicious to find some imaginary ones. And I see more to catch up on: I hope that means you are well, well, well.

Posted by: marly on February 25, 2007 10:44 PM

Thank you. It's great to be able to see these as larger images. I quite like some of the early surreal works - no home should be without a triffid column.

Posted by: peacay on February 26, 2007 09:41 AM

thank you for the detailed examples of these excellent works of fantasy art! Truly inspiring.

Posted by: aeron on March 1, 2007 05:28 AM

This is the second time I've been here to view these images. May even go to the Chicago gallery that handles his work.

Posted by: Carmen on March 9, 2007 01:28 AM

I love the fact that he started out a gardener and then decided that nature couldn't quite do what he wanted it to do, so he'd better do it himself... The Jardins etchings in particular have a very intriguing soft quality to them

Posted by: Emma on March 9, 2007 07:15 PM
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