Inside Legendary Creator Guy de Rougemont’s Unassuming Compound in the South of France

Although his career has spanned more than half a century, artist Guy de Rougemont remains something of an enigma. Aristocratic in bearing and by birth, he cuts a dashing figure in Parisian society. Yet he is not what the French would call a mondain, a worldly, fashionable socialite. “Guy is made up of opposites,” says his gallerist and friend Diane de Polignac. “He is a man of grand culture, but also a free spirit.”

Colorful and vibrant, his work in both two and three dimensions embodies an exuberant joie de vivre. His sculptures, which are like line drawings in space, can be found across the globe, from the Hakone museum in Japan to the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. Over the past several decades, he has produced a significant amount of public work, including sculptures that stand alongside a motorway in France and the pavement in front of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. De Rougemont has long straddled the line between the fine and decorative arts, and pieces like his luminous Nuage (“Cloud”) table, first produced in 1970, and serpentine Pop lamp, a design that echoes his sculptures, are coveted by design aficionados.

The main hall of the home.

The man himself, now in his 80s, may fly under the radar, but his getaway in the South of France offers an insight into his personality and temperament. When de Rougemont and his wife, actress Anne-Marie Deschodt, who passed away in 2014, first found the small compound of 18th-century buildings in the little village of Marsillargues, it was nothing special. “They actually stored grain in what is now the house,” de Rougemont explains. “My studio used to house sheep.”

Over the ensuing years, however, the couple transformed this rustic domain into an artistic retreat. “A house like this takes a lot of work,” says de Rougemont, who gives all credit for the cozy transformation to his late wife. “Anne-Marie was really the mistress of it all. I was just a squatter.”

Behind a simple, unmarked wooden door painted green, not far from the village square, lies the hidden paradise: a lovely courtyard and reflecting pool surrounded by a few buildings and a lush garden dotted with sculptures. To the left is the studio; the residence sits straight ahead. Its modest front door opens onto a narrow entrance hall with a graphically patterned tile floor. At the back, a light-flooded staircase leads up two stories past stark white walls covered with art to a high-ceilinged, wood-beamed attic filled with completed sculptures. Every room holds obviously well-thumbed books, while notebooks and drawing pads full of jottings and sketches lie scattered throughout. “This is a house for painting, reading, and writing,” says the artist, who has always immersed himself in history and literature. “I am not so knowledgeable, but I am curious.”

In contrast to the simplicity of most of the decor, the main salon is a surprisingly sumptuous space with deep red walls and a blue ceiling, where many of the artist’s most beloved paintings, objects, antiques, and family mementos seem to have migrated. A large portrait of de Rougemont and Deschodt by one of his great friends, Spanish artist Eduardo Arroyo, anchors one wall. “It’s what the English call a conversation piece,” he notes. “It’s us with our cats.” He also points out two other paintings and says proudly, “These are by my ancestor Lejeune, who was the battle painter for Napoleon. There was a big exhibition of his paintings at Versailles in 2012.”

Overflowing with his own work, gifts from artist friends, family photos, cherished objects, and memorabilia, this is a truly personal refuge. But it’s also a place of prolific creativity, and his studio is filled with works in progress and studies for new projects. Although he is in his ninth decade, it’s clear that de Rougemont has no intention of slowing down.

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