Pépé Vignes French, 1920-2007

Joseph Vignes, better known as Pépé Vignes, was born in Paris, France in 1920. The son of a barrel-maker, he was the second child in a family of five children. As a young man he made a living by playing the accordion and singing at public dances, and from various odd jobs. Following a strike in the factory where he was employed, he decided to leave Paris and settled in the small village of Elne in the Pyrenees where he lived until his death in 2007. His nickname Pépé came from the diminutive of Jiusep (Joseph in Catalan).


In 1960 when Vignes was forty years old, he started to draw for fun on sheets of paper, first using ball point pens and colour pencils then later felt-tip pens. He also drew on Kraft paper, pieces of cardboard and scraps of plywood. His favourite recurrent themes included flowers, boats, fishes, whales, cars, aircraft, buses, trains, churches, gas stoves and musical instruments. In almost all of his drawings heart shapes can be found, often in the corners, and these symbolise a love for humanity. He was severely short-sighted and worked with his nose almost touching the paper. Vignes' house was filled with stacks of his drawings, meticulously packed away in plastic bags, in closets, under beds and in wardrobes.


In 1974 Vignes was discovered by Claude Massé who dedicated an article to the artist in the eleventh issue of Fascicule de l'Art Brut. From 1971 to 1980, Vignes produced three thousand 'good points' which he distributed to those he loved. The highly personal universe that the artist created is full of poetry and strangeness.


Artworks by Pépé Vignes can be found in the public collections of Musée de la Création Franche in Bègles, France and at the Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland.