Jean Rochefort at the Louvre


Art is made







For the French actor, Jean Rochefort, his passion for horses began when he was 30 and was asked to ride in a film. The encounter was love at first sight. Today, Rochefort breeds horses while he is also the co-author of the bestselling book, Le Louvre à Chéval.


By Camilla Alfthan



”Equestrian art is the result of two species that find confidence in one another,” says Jean Rochefort during a chat between classes at the Gucci Masters show in Paris.


”The painters were aways interested in the horses,” he continues about his lavish coffe table book which takes a closer look at the cultural link between horses and mankind.

”Their aestetic beauty, their sensuality and the mystery of the horse always inspired many artists.  A friend from the Louvre asked me if I wanted to do it. It though it over and then I agreed and it turned out to be fascinating adventure. I enjoyed it very much and the book has been very succesful all over the world. So I’m very happy and proud.”


”There are some very beautiful images and some humour, too, for the kids. I received letters from children who discovered painters thanks to little bits of fun. In art it all becomes very serious. But it has to amuse you and create emotions so it can’t be serious. Art is made for happiness,” tells Rochefort whose own favourite oevres are by Delacroix – “a master whose brush strokes are beyond comparison”.


“In art it all becomes very serious. But it has to amuse you and create emotions so it can’t be serious. Art is made for happiness.”


In Paris, Rochefort and his wife have come to see their daughter, Clémence compete on the family’s homebred horses. Despite the blitzing paparazzi both are absorbed in their daughter and her horse from the moment they enter the warm up until they go into the ring.


And that is how it should always be, he explains.


”Here it is too much showbiz like Cannes. It’s very peculiar.  I was a part of this competition from the beginning and I would prefer if it was more about the sport than about the people; if you understand what I mean. I call it restaurants with horse shows. When people eat and forget to look,” he says with a shrug while one of Paris’ little Green Men – un technicien de surface – begins to clean our table with a cloth and spray.


Having grown up with horses in his native Normandy it now means a lot for him to help popularize the sport.


”My grandfather had carriage horses to take the tourists sightseeing. His interest skipped a generation. For me, it all began when I was riding in a film. It was like an electric charge. My life changed because of that. I have since bred horses and my daughter continues and my wife as well. It’s an enormous passion.”


”All species interest me. Even homo sapiens. But less and less. I think we are lost. Animals at least have certain codes. A stallion fights with another stallion, the strongest one stays and the weaker leaves.


But with us, humans, the weaker leaves and the stronger kills him anyway. He who wins kills. It’s only with the ants and the humans that this exists.

The war between the same species only exists between ants and humans. And some chimpanzes. They are very close to us. They recently discovered that a group of chimpanzes will run great distances to other families just to kill a male and then leave again. And the reason behind this is not known,” he shrugs with a smile.


Horses remain his favorite subject.


”In the old days, the horses worked for us. Now we are trying to create a bond with them. It is this bond that you see in great performances. When I started sixty years ago, horses did not have much fun. It was often violent work. With my grandfather you should not approach them as they were seen as dangerous monsters. That has changed a lot.”


”In the old days, the horses worked for us. Now we are trying to create a bond with them. It is this bond that you see in great performances.”  


As the author of an art book, Rochefort has come to realize the importance of horses and indeed all animals.


”Without the animals there may never have been any painters. Even 30.000 years ago man painted animals in grottos. With equestrian photography there’s been an evolution. Before, I found it very boring. Twenty years ago it wasn’t interesting at all. Now, when I see certain photos they create an emotion.”

Though it is not always like that.

“At a recent exhibition in Paris, I saw a picture where a horse was skating on ice. When I learned that the artist had made it because he’d had problems with his mother I was no longer interested. That there had to be a psychological reason for him to make the image made me lose all interest!” he exclaims with yet another shrug.


”After that I saw three obstacles which were encircled by a long piece of rope so you couldn’t get too close to them. A drop of water fell on one of the obstacles every thirty seconds. I was fascinated and I saw something interesting there. After a while the guardian came up to me and said; ’Monsieur Rochefort, that is a leak…’  Funny, no? ”


Le Louvre à cheval


Le Louvre à Cheval by Jean Rochefort and Edward Vignot is published by Louvre Editions.