|The Musée de l'Imaginaire was the creation of Raymond Dreux. Born in 1928 near Tours, France, he led a nomadic life travelling with his bookseller parents, often living in gypsy camps. As a young man he worked as a mason for other artists, which helped him to discover and develop his own creativity, making his first sculptures in terracotta in 1950. From 1970 to 1978 he lived at Fox-Amphoux in the Var, then at Fanjeaux in the Aude, where his work expanded to include paintings, constructions of found objects, and especially models in terracotta. In 1985, at Laurac le Grand in the Aude, he created the Musée de l'Imaginaire; a place to show the works of his friends and to share the things he loved which defied easy categorisation or labels. Between 1985 and 2004 he and his wife Sonja lived in La Gaude in the Var department, and he spent a few months each year at the museum.|
A note from Bob Drake:
I met Raymond quite by chance in August 2000, while sitting in the town square of Fanjeaux waiting for a shop to open. I noticed a wild looking old guy with long frizzy hair and beard meandering up the road towards me. He approached and looked at me, pointed and said: "You're an artist!" I was a little surprised and said "...yes..." at which he immediately sat down next to me and began excitedly describing his museum, inviting me to come have a look. I had the time, and was curious to see if he was just some crazy old guy or if he really had a museum, so we rode in his van to the nearby village of Laurac le Grand, where he led me to an intriguing-looking, faded, green wooden door decorated with bits of metal and enamel. I didn't know what to expect, or rather wasn't really expecting much; perhaps a room with a few paintings, but when he opened that door it was like entering another world. Even the walls and passageways, even the toilet...were works of art thanks to Raymond's handiwork with plaster and masonry. I won't try to describe it, you can look at the photos to get some idea.
I was amazed and immediately wanted to make a website about it, which in turn fired up Raymond's already overflowing enthusiasm. I showed him my own attempts at art and he especially liked the erotic (some would say pornographic!) pieces. We even talked about setting up a room in the museum which would feature those drawings, something we never managed to do...in 2004 Raymond was diagnosed with advanced cancer of the prostate and bladder and died shortly thereafter. I spoke to him by telephone a few days before his death and he was as enthusiastic as ever, and happy to know my friend Maggie and I were still photographing every inch of the museum, so that whatever might happen, the museum would at least live on in photos, to be seen and enjoyed by people around the world via the internet.
To make a long story short: after Raymond's death the buildings which housed the museum had to be sold. His wife Sonja, friends and various groups of local people tried to raise enough money to buy the buildings, or to interest some art foundation or another to help preserve it, but to no avail; it was finally sold to a private family in 2006. Much of the art is now here at our home, where Maggie Thomas and I live. The new owners of the former museum had no interest in the fabulous decor Raymond had created over the years, and removed all of it. Now nothing remains of Raymond's fantastic creation except memories and photographs.Between 2000 and 2006, Maggie and I made over 10,000 photographs of the museum, and as time allows I am scanning Raymond's vast collections of old postcards and other things which I'll continue to add to site. Meanwhile, enjoy the photos website, which I hope give some idea of what it was like to wander about this fabulous, inspiring place, discovering something new with every visit.
Bob Drake, November 2007 (revised March 2015)