Jean Touret: Résurrection

31 March - 30 April 2022
  • The Surprising Monsieur Touret

    The Surprising Monsieur Touret

    He did nothing like everyone else. Only thought about working with his hands at a time of galloping industrialisation. He had learned to paint but expressed himself through sculpture. He sculpted ceaselessly, but never sold his works. Jean Touret (1916-2004) has gone down in history as the creator and artistic director of the ateliers of Marolles in the 1950s. This cooperative of craftsmen and artisans manufactured furniture with pure forms that is now in high demand in the world of design. He is also known for having created, along with his son Sébastien Touret, the monumental high alter in bronze installed in 1981 in the choir of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. At the Galerie Yves Gastou, we discover one about whom little is known: Jean Touret, the sculptor. At the end of his life, the artist feared that his works, realized in wood and metal and created with such passion over the course of his existence, would sink into oblivion. 

  • His house overflowed with large silhouettes sculpted in tree trunks, pensive and enigmatic, as well as wall panels carved in wood and populated with figures in relief, panels in zinc or copper, embossed and incised, where dancers, musicians, and innumerable naked female formes are depicted. Of all these sculptures, Touret rarely exposed any and he never sold even one. In their message as well as their creation, they are revealed today with a troubling acuteness. In the turbulent times following the second World War, Jean Touret wanted to share his faith in beauty through his works. For him, there was an exact value, one that is comforting and is the same since the beginning of the world. This mystic had discovered and wondered at the artworks of the Lascaux and Chauvet caves. Consciously or not, he used the same techniques in his works as the artists of the Magdalenian, who used the hollows and bumps of the rock to give a troubling relief to their female bodys and engraved animals. Touret used knots in the wood and reliefs in embossed metal to give life and movement. He wanted his sculptures to be prophetic, heralding the return of joy as testimonies of eternal harmony. Touret didn't think to promote his pieces, he was too busy creating them. 
  • Le Feu Sacré For the creation of his pieces, Jean Touret needed an inner fire, 'le feu sacré'. First to...

    The Founding Group: Émile Leroy, Manuel Gold, Henri Vion, Jean Touret et Edmond Le Flohic (c. 1950)

    Le Feu Sacré


    For the creation of his pieces, Jean Touret needed an inner fire, "le feu sacré". First to become an artist, he who was born to a family of tanners in Mayenne with no links to the world of art. Forced to work in an insurance company in Le Mans to help his mother after the death of his father, he found a way to study drawing and painting in night classes. He already understood that he had a talent to take advantage of. However, war was on its way. Enrolled at the age of 23, just following his military service, he is taken prisoner at the battle of Dunkirk. He is sent to Germany, in the Ore Mountains, to help the old lumberjacks whose sons had gone to die at the front. Filled with a great humanity, Jean Touret, with no vengeful hatred, admired their simplicity, their relationship with nature, and their knowledge of the forest. At their side, he learned to look at and to love the trees. He managed to escape in 1945 and made it to the American lines on foot, equipped with just a map and compass. 

  • Back home, and conscious of the fragility of life, he is determined to devote his existence to art, even as his mother threatened to curse him for it. His determination is as strong as his life's energy. He settles in Marolles to paint, a small village in the Beauce region just outside Paris. He helps the peasants with the harvest, creating friendships in the local café and tobacco shop. This neo-rural before his time, with his glasses, his pipe and his bicycle, changed the life of the surrounding area that had become numb on the edge of modernisation. Jean Touret meets a weaver, a blacksmith, and a carpenter, and their know-how fascinates him. For him, nothing is more noble than to work an ancestral material with one's hands. He launches the ateliers of Marolles, for whom he draws the designs of tables, lamps and buffets, created by the artisans of the village and the surrounding area. They are a sensation, a true phenomenon of the society. Artists and intellectuals alike flock to Marolles. But for Jean Touret, the essential is elsewhere: he begins to sculpt wood, and this is his revelation.
  • Atelier de Marolles sideboard, 4 appliques H. 91 x 200 x 50 cm Edition of 8 + 4 AP
    Atelier de Marolles sideboard, 4 appliques
    H. 91 x 200 x 50 cm
    Edition of 8 + 4 AP
  • A Hymn to Life

    A Hymn to Life

    Jean Touret puts his artistic passion in his sculptures just as he did in his spiritual quest. A devout believer, he was close to Saint François of Assise, a religious figure from the Middle Ages who preached joy in poverty and celebrated nature. He worked with recycled materials, prevalent after the destruction of the war, wooden beams, then pieces of metal, his second favorite medium since settling in Les Montils, another village of the Blois area, in 1963. Just as he had brightened Marolles, not only with the Ateliers but also marionnettes created for a puppet show or a carnival float in the shape of a mammoth, he brings soul to these tired places. To this day, we can observe the signs he made in metal for local merchants and weather vanes born from his hand, animating the roof-tops. He welcomed in his home anyone who wished to visit, including gypsies, the homeless, or those suffering psychiatric troubles, for long discussions about humanity and spirituality. He sculpts outdoors, rain or shine, but earns his living by creating furniture for the church. Jean-Marie Lustiger, future Archbishop of Paris, appreciated Touret's work and faith, as well as his uncommon integrity and honesty. Lustiger commissioned Jean Touret for the order of the high alter of the Parisian cathedral. The artist, always discreet, never did anything halfway: by wanting to create artisanal furniture, he brought Marolles into the history of design; his liturgical furniture leads him to Notre Dame. His career as a sculptor remained discreet but no less intense. He is revealed with "Resurrection".