History & Culture

The home of Robert Tatin

Discover temple-like structures in the heart of the Mayenne department at the amazing world of the artist Robert Tatin

In an otherwise typical corner of France, there lies a whole world of amazing temple-like statues reminiscent of the ancient figures you might find in the temples of Asia or South America. Welcome to the wonderfully creative world of French artist, Robert Tatin.

Who is Robert Tatin?

Born Robert Émile Ernest Tatin on 9th January 1902 in the town of Laval. His early life was spent largely surrounded by women, being brought up by his mother, grandmother, sister and nurse, as well as nature and astronomy, all of which became recurring themes in his work in later life.

Robert Tatin began studying painting from the age of 14 when he took art classes at the Perrine School in Laval, which also included sculpture, enamels and ceramics. Not having very much money, when he moved to Paris in 1918 to further pursue his career, he enrolled in the free classes of Vilvoski at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, and evening classes at the École des Beaux-Arts.

The entrance to Robert Tatin’s home and the main art gallery
The entrance to Robert Tatin’s home and the main art gallery.

Throughout his life, Tatin never stopped studying and learning new craft skills, and received great critical acclaim and numerous awards. In 1930, he started up a business in his hometown of Laval, offering services such as carpentry, painting, interior decorating, amongst others, which was the beginnings of what is now the Robert Tatin Museum.

In 1962, Tatin moved to a place called La Frénouse in Cossé-le-Vivien, not too far from Laval, and started creating his masterpiece. He continued working on his incredible ‘environnement d'art’ right up until his death in 1983, and it has remained unchanged since.

The Robert Tatin Museum

Where in France: Cossé-le-Vivien, Mayenne
Drive from Calais: 523km / 5h 10m

When you first enter the Robert Tatin Museum, your first encounter will be with the ‘Alley of the Giants’. Along a path about 80m in length, are 19 towering statues that tell the story of Tatin’s life and important discoveries. Representing his childhood, there’s a statue of Joan of Arc and Vercingetorix, who was a tribal leader of the Gauls, both of which link to his study of French history. His growth into adolescence and later life are marked by statues relating to mysticism, and questions of ‘Being’ and ‘Having’.

The statue of Joan of Arc, or Jeanne d’Arc, representing Tatin’s childhood
The statue of Joan of Arc, or Jeanne d’Arc, representing Tatin’s childhood.

His adult life, and the development of his career as an artist, is represented by statues of the most prominent influences on his work, including Pablo Picasso, Toulouse Lautrec, Auguste Rodin, and Jules Verne, to name just a few.

Of course, the entire museum is built around the house that he lived in with his wife, which today serves as a gallery. Inside, you’ll find his studio where the weird and wonderful creations all around you were born, as well as examples of his early work. Because the house itself is so small and fragile, only small guided tours are permitted inside. Also, look out for the tombstone in the garden marking the artists final resting place.

The magical Garden of Meditations, reflecting our journey through life
The magical Garden of Meditations, reflecting our journey through life.

From the small garden in front of the house, you can continue on to what is probably the most popular part of the museum. Centred around a still and peaceful pool of water is the Garden of Meditations. Around the edge, the twelve months of the year are represented in line with the direction of the rotation of the earth.

To the north of the garden, you’ll see a large 6.5m tall statue called ‘Notre-Dame-Tout-Le-Monde’, linking heaven and earth. And to the east and west, you’ll find the ‘Gate of the Sun’ and the ‘Gate of the Moon’, respectively. The whole garden is designed to reflect our journey through life, and the pursuit of meaning and wisdom.

The dragon is not a demon, but a guardian of knowledge
The dragon is not a demon, but a guardian of knowledge.

The magic and wonderment of the Robert Tatin Museum continues with more captivating sculptures, such as the dragon, and ‘Gate of Giants’, and there are also rotating temporary exhibitions held in the Barn. Over the years, numerous exhibitions have looked at a variety of different aspects of the artist’s work and interests, and they all strive towards a common goal.

In accordance with the final wishes of the artist himself, the museum is there as a living, breathing space to ensure that contemporary art remains an important part of culture, and to inspire new artists. And after a walk around the house and gardens, you will be left feeling nothing if not inspired!

The Gate of the Giants represents five great artists
The Gate of the Giants represents five great artists.

Visiting the museum

The Robert Tatin Museum is open throughout the year, except for the month of January, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. From the 1 June to the 31 August, the museum is open every day of the week from 10am until 7pm, but otherwise, it’s closed on Tuesdays and opening hours vary, so check the website ahead of your visit.

Ticket prices vary, depending on whether you wish to explore the house as well as the rest of the museum, and there is different prices for adults, children, families, and other groups. As these are subject to change, see the website for more information.

If you’re looking for something a little different that will leave you feeling inspired to create, look no further. And don’t forget to book your tickets across the Channel with us early to take advantage of the best fares available.