Born in Avallon, Burgundy, Gaston Chaissac (1910 - 1964) came from a modest family background. He discovered art in Paris in 1937 when he encountered Jeanne Kosnick-Kloss and Otto Freundlich, who encouraged him to paint. His first solo exhibition was held at Galerie Gerbo, Paris, as early as 1938. During the war, through Albert Gleizes in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence he met some of the leading names in the art world, most notably André Bloc, who provided him with support from afar. Chaissac laid the foundations of his artistic approach during the late 1930s. He arrived in Vix, in the Vendée department, in August 1942; he went on to follow his wife Camille, a schoolteacher in the secular state system, in her various postings, first in Boulogne (1943 - 1948), followed by Sainte-Florence (1948 - 1961) and then back to Vix from July1961.
In his immediate entourage, Gaston Chaissac came across his “visual field”, the quite ordinary people and materials that he metamorphosed into artistic motifs. In his “Chronicles of the Goose” (a play on the name “Sainte-Florence-de-l’Oie”, the village where he lived, “l’oie” also being French for “goose”) for a literary magazine, he recounted the host of trivial events and encounters that punctuated his daily life. As the inventor of “modern rustic painting”, he made the paths, woods, construction sites and landfill areas of Vendée his playgrounds, where he collected a range of paraphernalia, everyday objects and used items, which he transformed through his exceptionally skilful use of colour.
The MASC owns the largest public collection devoted to the work of Gaston Chaissac: more than one hundred and fifty works and some five hundred letters. He was the subject of a first retrospective in 1969, followed by several temporary exhibitions. The museum has dedicated a permanent exhibition room to the artist since 1973 and also houses the Centre d'études Gaston Chaissac, a resource centre of reference materials about the artist.