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.
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).
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.
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