Danielle Jacqui: The Struggle for a Dream

Danielle Jacqui: The Struggle for a Dream

First published: Fall 2019

Danielle Jacqui continues her tireless work, creating her own universe

Born in Nice in 1934, Danielle Jacqui felt a sense of marginality from a young age. Much of her childhood was spent in boarding schools following her parents’ separation; and, after the break-up, her mother did not have much time for her. Jacqui found comfort and a means of escape in the books of her family’s library, which, unlike her family, stayed present and unfractured. They nourished her, but it would be many years until she would start to create.

Throughout the 1960s, a decade which saw great social, political and intellectual change across Europe, Jacqui was married and living a provincial family life. Immersed in domesticity and cut off from intellectual stimulation, her rebellious personality transgressed and opposed the routines, traditions and attitudes around her. However, by the 1970s, Jacqui was divorced, and on the verge of finding her vocation.

Working as a second-hand goods dealer in a flea market, she had started to paint, and began to exhibit her first artworks on her stalls. Her only art training had been at school, where lessons followed the liberal, collaborative, student-led approach of French educationalist Célestin Freinet. Jacqui found that her self-taught style and marginal aesthetics were not welcomed by the contemporary art world, but she persisted. Gradually, she garnered support from a few significant people in the world of art brut – such as Alphonse Chave of Gallery Chave; George Viener of the Outsider Folk Art Gallery; John and Maggie Maizels of Raw Vision; Jean Claude and Simone Cairo, who founded and published the Bulletin de l'Association Les Amis de François Ozenda on art singulier; and photographer of artistes brut Mario del Curto, who helped her show her works to the public and establish herself. By 1990, Jacqui was a recognised artist and she chose to use her platform to support art singulier by founding and organising the Festival International d’Art Singulier in Roquevaire, in southern France, where she continues to live and work. In this way, she supported other marginal artists and helped them gain recognition.
 


Danielle Jacqui’s Maison de Celle Qui Peint (House of She Who Paints), at 2 Chemin Départemental du Pont de l'Étoile, 13360 Roquevaire, France; photo by Mario del Curto, 2019

In the 1960s, before she started painting, Jacqui had made some wall decorations in her first “house on the hill”, as she called it – but it was in Roquevaire in 1983 that she began making them in earnest. The wall decorations that she has added over the years stand as guardians of her memories, which are immortalised in the myriad characters adorning the “la maison de celle qui peint” (“the house of she who paints”) both inside and out. She transformed the house into her own limitless universe, going through several evolutions both as an artist and as a person within its walls.

Jacqui did, however, face some obstacles and barriers. Her work is set in a public space, and unauthorised public art goes against Roquevaire’s town regulations. Nature presented the next obstacle: Jacqui typically made the decorations on plywood panels, which she then attached to the walls; but the elements degraded the façade and it required continual restoration. Sometimes this weathering led to successful improvisations, which Jacqui describes: “For example, I used the cracking and lifting of the material to slip a mixture of sand and varnish underneath, which amassed when drying and brought a kind of volume, like a scarring blister that added matter to the art work.” Unfortunately, there were times when the damage was irreparable, at which point Jacqui removed everything and started again from scratch.
 

This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #103