December 22, 2008

Abbé Fouré, Les rochers sculptés/The sculpted rocks

postcard, from my collection

Located in Rothéneuf, on the coastal road that runs from St. Malo to Cancalé in Brittany, France, the site Les rochers sculptés is a well known classic.

This art environment was created by Adolphe-Julien Fouré (1839-1910), who was a priest and generally is known as Abbé Fouré.

Life and works

Fouré, born in Saint-Thual, as a young man studied at some seminaries, was ordained as a priest in 1863 and worked in a number of communities in Brittany, being rector of Paimpont for some years..

In october 1893, in his fifties, he settled in the small communiy of Rothéneuf, on the north coast of Brittany, not far from St Malo, where he rented a simple cabin.

The legend says that he, after a stroke which made him deaf-mute, no longer could fulfill his clerical duties and so decided to retire as a priest. Recent research by the Association of friends however demonstrates that Fouré was relieved from his duties by his superiors and had to leave after they did not appreciate a firm position the priest had taken in a local conflict.

In 1894 Fouré began making sculptures, both creations from stone, displayed on the exterior facade of the cabin and wooden creations, displayed in its courtyard and interior.

postcard showing the facade

So his house became kind of a museum and since tourism had begun to develop in the region, the site attracted tourists.

wooden sculptures inside the house, the "Grande Galerie"

Fouré became known as the hermit of Rothéneuf, although one can wonder if he led a lonely life.

He would be present at the premises, selling postcards which showed him and his creations. The revenue went to the local poor. During the priest's lifetime some 400 different postcards have been made .

postcard, from my collection

Currently the priest is mostly known because of the three hundred or so sculptures he carved into the rocks along the coast at Rothéneuf.

These sculptures represent folkloristic, religious and historical themes, for example the Virgin Mary with nations at her feet, or impersonations of all kind of people related to the past of Brittany (among whom, but not exclusively -as legend says- a family that in the 16th century happened to live in that area and had a reputation of banditism and piratism).

signature of the Abbé on a postcard, my collection
it shows he used to write his name as Fouré, 
although his original family name was Fouéré

Abbé Fouré stopped carving rocks in 1907, but he continued making wooden sculptures until his death on February 10, 1910.

Auction of the Abbè's belongings

After he died his belongings were auctioned. The furniture was bought by various people and some items of this furniture nowadays are still available in art galleries. The wooden sculptures did not attract so much interest. Most items have been bought en bloc by the owner of the cabin, who had the purpose to let them stay in situ.

Fouré posing in his museum

However, the cabin/museum has disappeared, and so have all wooden sculptures¹. This probably happened in the period during world war II (around 1944?) when the french northwest coast was a military zone (to prevent an eventual allied invasion) where the civilian population was deployed.

The sculptures in the rocks nowadays are still extant, but the site hasn't a protected status and the creations gradually become affected by the weather and the visitors. Originally painted, meanwhile they have lost all color.

Livre d'or

The Abbé kept kind of a guest book in which visitors or he himself could write remarks and/or make drawings. This Livre d'or (golden book) was donated by the family to the Association of friends of the oeuvre of Abbé Fouré.

Here is a picture of the book's cover, from a series made available by the Association of friends for publication on the weblog of Sophie Lepetit

More pictures on the weblog lesgrigrisdesophie of February 4, 2012.

An association of friends

Presided by Joëlle Jouneau the association Les amis de l'oeuvre de l'Abbé Fouré, founded in 2010, documents Fouré's life and works, organizes expositions and meetings, and promotes the preservation of the site. They have a website (in french).

In the summer of 2013 mrs Jouneau was interviewed about the activities of the association. The text of this interview is in my collection of OEE-texts.

Stories from former times
 *Noguette, La vie de l'Ermite de Rothéneuf, St. Malo, 1919. This brochure by Eugène Herpin, 1850-1942, has been republished on Bruno Montpied's weblog. A translation into english is  my collection of texts on outsider environments.
* Another early 20th century text is R. Brooks Popham, The hermit of Rothéneuf, 1912, also republished in my collection of texts on outsider environments
* Also from the early 20th century, first published in 1919, republished in 2010 the Guide du Musée describing the wooden sculptures. This new edition has an introduction by Bruno Montpied and is illustrated with items from the author's collection of rather rare old postcards that show these sculptures. The document is published in the very first edition of the new french art periodical l'Or aux 13 isles

Article on SPACES website
* Website of the Association of Friends

* Jarvis Cocker's Journeys into the Outside (1999, on Youtube in 2012, see my post of august 23, 2012)
* Trailer of Frédéric Daudier's l'Homme de granit (2002, 52 min, Arcanae Productions (can be ordered on DVD). 

More pictures
* Some panoramic postcards on Jean-Michel Chesné's weblog (19-1-2011)  These special pictures can be enlarged and give a good impression of  the vastness of the site.

* Life and work of Abbé Fouré, Les forges de Paimpont, febr/march 2012 (organised by the Association of friends of the oeuvre of Abbé Fouré), continued in the Chapel of St Vincent in the Normand community of Saint Coulomb, east of Saint Malo (april 8 - june 30, 2012)

picture via Joële Jouneau

*In 2013, at the occasion of the manifestation l'Art brut à l'Ouest in Brest, Britanny, with the cooperation of the Asssociation of Friends, an exposition about Abbé Fouré, "as you have never seen him before" (april till end of june 2013).

¹ in december 2010 it was made public that an inhabitant of St. Malo owns a wooden sculpture made by Abbé Fouré, a present to her mother (see Jean/Michel Chesné's weblog, 19-1-2011)

Adolphe-Julien Fouré
Les rochers sculptés
34500 Saint Malo, Brittany, France

open for the public
a private firm exploites the site, asking an entrance fee
at low tide the site can be reached freely (by those familiar with the surroundings)


  1. Thank you so much for such an interesting Blog and information about so many fantastic Outsiders Artists; it is most appreciated!.

    Also all my thanks for such a nice presentation of the Abbé Fouré.As a French I really appreciate this article.

    Yes in a way he is well known or should I say was well known.
    Thanks to a new French Association: 'L'Association des amis de l'Oeuvre de l'Abbé Fouré' which tries to protect his Master piece and also wishes to bring people to re-discover his work and life.

    If some person wanted to know a bit more about this Association and about the Abbé, you could have a look on this Blog:
    The Blog has put a few information and an advert on exhibition at the Forges of Paimpont in February this year.

    The Abbé Fouré sculpted the Rocks of Rothéneuf during 25 years. During this time he also sculpted some 3 to 400 drift wood sculptures. Most of them have 'vanished', supposedly burnt during the war, but one has turned up when there was an exhibition for the 100 years of his death, and another one is actually exhibited in the LaM museum, in the North of France at Villeneuve-d'Ascq, a newly re-opened museum which has the biggest collection of Art Brut in Europe.

    During his short 25 years of being an Artist Creator- an Outsider Artist, Adolphe-Julien Fouéré known as the Hermite of Rothéneuf or Abbé Fouré had more than 400 postcards made of him and his work. If some persons were interested even jut to see some of them, a glance at a post card site could be interesting:
    A very nice article about the Abbé was also written in PostCard monthly magazine in UK No391 of November 2011.

    Thanks again, I will come with more information soon.

    1. @ Francoise Genty.
      Thanks a lot for your interesting comment. It is my intention to announce the upcoming exposition in Paimpont in one of my next posts.
      The postcards in Sophie Lepetit's blog are very nice indeed. During the abbé's lifetime these were the favourite medium to inform the general public about these sites.
      I would appreciate to communicate with you about Fouré's life and work and about the Association d'Amis, so please contact me at

  2. Dear Henk!
    Thank you SO MUCH for the article and reference literature concerning mesmerizing creations of Abbot Fouré!
    I dared to translate the essays into Russian, for the readers of my blog:
    Of course, with the links to the sources - your blog, as well as original texts, photo sources, etc.

    Thank you again - yours is the most complete collection of materials about the Abbot I could find in English.