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Jean Poteau, Le havre du pêcheur

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About the Artist/Site

Jean Poteau, born in Rouvroy, a community some 40 km south of Lille in northern France, was the son of a miner. But when it came to choosing a future profession his father advised his son not to follow in this vocation, as it was hard and dirty. The young Jean Poteau agreed and became a construction worker, specialized in form work and woodworking. He continued to live in Rouvroy and spent his career working in the region, especially around Lille. 

In 1989, at age 42, Poteau added a pond with fish to the garden at the rear of the rented house in Rouvroy where he lived with his wife. Some eight years later, in 1997, he began transforming the already well-flowered garden into an art environment by adding a variety of decorative elements and sculptures that he created himself. Poteau also covered the walls with cobblestones, ballast from a nearby small railroad along which trash was transported.

On the edge of the pond Poteau added a fisherman, as well as a heron, another figure, and a windmill.
The windmill, built up from red bricks and covered with a tile roof, evokes the regional architecture of northern France. In winter it often shelters birds. It is topped with a weather vane to indicate wind direction.

The bodies, arms and legs of Poteau’s figures are made from all-purpose residual material, the concrete faces were molded from molds he made himself, and the clothes and other accoutrements are recycled or found objects. In addition to the heron, Poteau created a variety of other animals that were placed in the garden or around the house, including dogs, ducks, frogs, a crocodile, and a lion. These concrete figures, too, were all constructed from molds made by Poteau himself; others, including a cat, a dog, and a rather small horse, were constructed from gypsum.

Poteau passed away in 2010, and his wife (who died in 2012), wanted to move to a smaller home. But according to the rules of the housing authority, she was required to return everything to the state in which the property existed when they moved in. Therefore, Poteau’s modest art environment was completely demolished. It is possible that some smaller, transportable items may have found their way into private collections, but the site is no longer extant.

~Henk van Es



Map and site information

63 Boulevard des Italiens
Rouvroy, Hauts-de-France, France
Latitude/Longitude: 50.403353 / 2.918091

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