Ismaël et Guy Villéger, La Maison de la Gaieté
Chérac, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, 17610, France
About the Artist/Site
This bar-restaurant-café-theatre, located in the small village of Chérac (between Saintes and Cognac), was a country house where locals would go to party and have a drink. Its proprietor, Ismaël Villéger, had the idea of decorating the building’s façade to make it more attractive and appealing, so he asked his friends and neighbors to bring him their shards of broken dishes. With these pieces, he created mosaic squares that he attached to the façade.
The decoration of the building – which at first he undertook alone, and then later with help from his son Guy (known as Titi) – took place between 1937 and 1952. The ornamentation is very rich and is carefully composed. An arbor recalls the purpose of the establishment: to serve wine. The curtains on the superbly pieced-together trompe-l’oeil window reveal spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds, referencing the card games that had often been played in the café. The numerous flowers are a symbol of joy, meant to flourish forever in their ceramic state. Even the license to serve alcohol – which is required by law to be always on view – was re-created in mosaic.
This cabaret was very popular until the 1970s, but after that time it began a slow decline, which was hastened after it was abandoned and then closed in the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, the mayor of Chérac would like to demolish the structure; this is an existential threat because the township is now the owner of the site. Consequently, a “friends” association has been formed to defend and save the site. It would be a terrible loss if they are not successful.
Translated by Jo Farb Hernández
Map & Site Information
Chérac, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, 17610 fr
Latitude/Longitude: 45.703761 / -0.438399
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