Jephan de Villiers
1940 – Born Jean-François Le Jolis de Villiers at Le Chesnay, near Versailles.
“This is where he spent the happiest times of his childhood, the only times which he keeps vividly in his memory. This is where he discovered classical music, thanks to his grandmother! His exchange letters with her every day became a ritual that taught him, as a child, to pay attention to everything that can be noticed and noted down, even in the most trivial detail. These moments of shared complicity seem to float on an ocean of solitude. When he opens the windows and improvises music for the trees on a piano, he digs under their roots to create villages of twigs and bark...”. (Sophie Serra, Le peuple sous l'écorce, (‘The People Beneath the Bark’), ed. Rouergue
1958 – His early artistic experiments are marked by a sense of fantasy and revolt. During his holidays in the Rhone valley, he throws eggs filled with paint out of the window onto large black sheets of Canson art paper. Without knowing it, he becomes part of a protest movement that questions the role of action and chance in the act of creation.
1962-1964 - After attending the Saumur Cavalry School, he leaves for Algeria as a second lieutenant.
1965 – Creates his first studio. Withdraws from the outside world, in the middle of Paris, but goes out on Sunday afternoons, often with his brother Hubert, to the National Museum of Modern Art where he visits Constantin Brancusi's reconstructed studio. Here, he also encounters sculpture by Zadkine, Giacometti and Germaine Richier.
1966 - He produces fifty sculptures, Aquatic Structures, over a short period. After months of confinement, his friend Emmanuel Driant encourages him to open the doors of his studio to show his work.
1967 – “When he suddenly left for England, something inspired him to adopt a more volatile and fluid approach to his name, changing Jean-François into Jephan, which corresponded to the new impetus that was about to manifest itself. The name Jephan, with its last syllable left suspended in the air, resounded like the opening of a space and at the same time, it came down to him through the ages, without him realising it just then, and sounded rather like another first name - Jehan – that many of paternal and maternal ancestors had had before him.” (Emmanuel Driant, 2013) He settles in London. He meets various people which enables him to show his work in several galleries.
1968 - He is the first artist to show his work at an exhibition in Coventry Cathedral. As the writer and art critic Max Wykes-Joyce, the London correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, who would become one of his greatest friends, wrote at the time: “It is a rare thing to meet a first-rate sculptor who has the level of integrity and authenticity as he does... Two of my closest friends were Constantin Brancusi and Ossip Zadkine, and my teacher was Germaine Richier, which is why I know what I am talking about, thanks to these three genius sculptors (...). He lives in London with the same simplicity as they do. I salute the resurrected cathedral and the master sculptor who is exhibiting his work there.”
He establishes a studio in Notting Hill, not far from Portobello Road.
1969 - Exhibition of The Aquatic Game of Chess at the David Hicks Gallery in London and the André Pacciti Gallery in Paris.
1972 - Exhibition at the De Sfinx gallery in Amsterdam. Meets the Bolivian painter, Fernando Montes. Opens his studio to visitors on Sunday afternoons. Exhibition at the University Gallery in Paris.
1973-1975 – Holds several exhibitions in England and France.
1976 - Discovers the Forêt de Soignes in Brussels.
1977 - Settles in Brussels. Finds a studio in the city ‘under the clouds’. Turns to using paper, wood, earth, leaves, feathers as his new materials. Sets off on his journey into Arbonia.
1978-1980-1982 - Exhibitions at the Alexandra Monett Gallery in Brussels. A Fragment of Memory is deposited in Shanghai. 1984 - First exhibition of the Song Cycle in Memory of a Tree in Tourinnes-la-Grosse, now in the Museum of Modern Art in Brussels.
1985 - Exhibition ‘Animals and Plants in Contemporary Belgian Art’, at the Atelier 340 in Brussels.
1986 - Meets Tchang-Tchong-Jen, Hergé's friend (The Blue Lotus) who returns to Brussels. Tchang does his portrait in his studio in Nogent-sur-Marne. In a letter dated 21 July 1986, he writes: “... at a time when there is universal concern for the protection and survival of the forest, you are presenting a work which bears this ancient and deep feeling you have for wood and which reveals in such a touching way that you are, in your own way, a precursor...”. Creates the sets for Paul Claudel's Cantata for Three Voices for the New Theatre, Belgium. Exhibition at the Patras Festival in Greece inaugurated by Melina Mercouri.
1987 - The Espace Jephan de Villiers is opened for a two-year period at The Other Museum in Brussels.
1988 - Designs several sets on the themes of his sculptures, La chambre des mémoires (The Memory Room) and Bâtons du vent (Wind Sticks) for the choreographer Michèle Swennen.
1989 - Moves to Jolymont in Watermael-Boitsfort near the Forêt de Soignes.
1991 - Exhibition ‘Mille et une souffles d’écorces ou le dernier forêt en marche’ (One Thousand and Three Strips of Bark or the Last Forest on the Move’) at The Other Museum in Brussels. As Danièle Gillemon wrote in Le Soir: “Sculpture is sometimes much more than sculpture. For Jephan de Villiers, who assembles and builds figures from materials gathered in the forest, nostalgia for lost civilisations is as absolute as his fascination for life beneath the bark. From this double focus, the most surprising and poetic utopia emerges, each element contributing to bringing to life a kind of procession that radiates with a very powerful and serious music.”
1992 - Caroline Corre exhibition in Paris. First International Bienniale Arts Festival held in Dakar, Senegal. Joint exhibition of Christian Dotremont and Jephan de Villiers’ work at the Château Malou in Brussels. Exhibition ‘Sculptures et Arbres’ (Sculptors and Trees) opens. The European Sculpture Foundation is inaugurated at the Tournay-Solvay Park in Brussels.
1993 - Exhibition at the Wallonie-Bruxelles Gallery at Bab Rouah in Rabat, Morocco, with Camille De Taeye, Christian Rolet and Alain Winance. Holds several solo and collective exhibitions.
1995 – ‘In Vitro’ exhibition with Camille De Taeye at the Vénerie Arts Centre, Watermael-Boitsfort, Brussels. Creation of the Jephan de Villiers Foundation.
1996 - ‘Outre terre’ (Other Lands) exhibition at the Circa Arts Centre in Montreal. Exhibition at the Béatrice Soulié Gallery in Paris.
1997 – ‘Civilisations Imaginaires’ (Imaginary Civilisations) exhibition at the Halle Saint-Pierre Museum in Paris.
1998 - In July, he meets the sculptor Costas Tsoclis and the painter Valério Adami on the island of Tinos, for the founding of the Cyclades Academy for Europe. His monumental sculpture ‘Ames-oiseaux’ (Soul-Birds) is unveiled in Brussels.
1999 - Exhibition at the Roselyne Koener Gallery on Long Island. ‘Animal’ exhibition at the Bourdel Museum in Paris.
2000 – Takes part in the ‘Messagers de la Terre’ (Messengers of the Earth) exhibition at the Rur'Art Contemporary Art Space in Rouillé near Poitiers. Takes part in the ‘Histoire Naturelle’ (Natural History) exhibition at the National Natural History Museum in Paris.
2002 - Retrospective exhibition at the Halle Saint-Pierre Museum in Paris.
2004 – His monumental sculptures for the Albert metro station in Brussels are unveiled. Solo exhibition ‘Messagers de la terre’ (Messengers of the Earth) at the Rur'Art Contemporary Art Centre in Rouillé near Poitiers. Exhibition at the Pierre Hallet Gallery.
2005 - The Espace Jephan de Villiers is inaugurated in Mirambeau, Charente-Maritime.
2007 - Exhibition at the Denys Puech Museum in Rodez.
2008 - Exhibition ‘Voyage en Arbonie 1978-2008’ (Journey into Arbonia) in the former Watermael train station, Brussels. Takes part in the ‘C’est notre terre’ (This is our Land) exhibition in Brussels and Warsaw. Exhibition ‘Fragments de mémoire’ (Fragments of Memory) at the Château du Grand-Jardin, Joinville (Haute Marne).
2009 – Receives the Salon de mai (May Fair) prize in Paris. Takes part in the exhibition ‘Les amis de L'œuf Sauvage’ (Friends of the Wild Egg) at Auberive Abbey. Exhibition in Saint Martin’s Abbey at the School of Applied Arts in Troyes.
2010 - Exhibition at the Béatrice Soulié Gallery in Paris and at the 2016 Gallery in Brussels.
2011 - Exhibition at the Chapelle des Augustins (Augustine Chapel), part of the CRDP Poitiers. Exhibition at the Grand'Rue Gallery in Poitiers.
2012 - Exhibition at the Le Creusot National Stage Arts Centre (Saône-et-Loire). Exhibition at Beaulieu-en-Rouergue Abbey (Aveyron).
2013 - Takes part in the ‘L’Arbre qui ne meurt jamais’ (The Tree that Never Dies) exhibition at the Sablon Contemporary Theatre Arts Museum in Neuilly. Duo exhibition with Eric Fourez. MG Art Gallery, Zeebrugge in Belgium. Les Arcs de Silence (The Silent Arches unveiled. La Sabline Archaeological Museum, Lussac-les-Châteaux (Vienne). ‘Voyage du bord au monde’ (Journey from the Shore to the world). Mérignac Media Library, Bordeaux.
2014 - Exhibition at the Nicaise Gallery in Paris. Exhibition at the Commanderie des Antonins in Saint-Marc-la-Lande.
2015 - Exhibition at the Béatrice Soulié Gallery, Paris. Exhibition at the Espace Bernard Noël, Laon. Exhibition at the MG Art Gallery, Zeebrugge. Takes part in "Hey Act III" exhibition at the Halle Saint-Pierre Museum in Paris.
2016 - Exhibition at the Grand'Rue Gallery, Poitiers. Takes part in the exhibition ‘Equilibre, couleurs et matières’ (Balance, Colours and Materials) at the Denys Puech Museum in Rodez.
2017- Exhibition ‘Les nomades de silence’ (The Silent Nomads). Cayac Priory, Georges de Sonneville Museum, Bordeaux. Exhibition ‘Jephan de Villiers, guetteur de mémoires des mondes oubliés’ (Jephan de Villiers, the Watchman of Memories of the Forgotten Worlds) at the La Maison des Douanes Contemporary Art space in Saint-Palais-sur-Mer (Charente-Maritime). Exhibition at Forest House in Montlieu-la-Garde. Takes part in the ‘Jeunet Caro’ exhibition at the Halle Saint-Pierre Museum in Paris. Takes part in the ‘Opium’ exhibition at the Contemporary Art space at Auberive Abbey.
2018 - Exhibition ‘Le Signe et la Mémoire’ (Signs and Memory). Wittockiana Library, Brussels. Exhibition at the Marie Ange Boucher Gallery, Brussels. Takes part in the ‘Exil et Résistance’ (Exile and Resistance) exhibition at the Contemporary Art space at Beaulieu-en-Rouergue Abbey. Group exhibition at the Artset Gallery, Limoges.
2019 - Exhibition ‘Au travers du temps. Les arches du silence’ (The Silent Arches through Time) at Flaran Abbey, Valence-sur-Baïse (Gers). Group exhibition at the Artset Gallery, Limoges.
2021 - Exhibition at the Artset Gallery, Limoges.