Cartoonist Perry Taylor Captures the Slow Life in Gascony

Planete Gasconne

Gascony is a well-kept secret. Considered the first British Colony, it’s a historical region that spans the southwest corner of France, from Bordeaux to the Pyrenees Mountains, and the Atlantic Ocean to Toulouse. During the Middle Ages, it was an independent state ruled by the Dukes of Gascony, who supplied England with immense quantities of wine, and fought with them against the French until the end of the 100 Years’ War, with the region officially becoming part of France in 1453. 

Credit: Perry Taylor

The heart of Gascony today can be found in the department of the Gers, also known as the Tuscany of France. This unspoiled paradise is isolated enough from highways and TGV train lines to retain its unique identity, imbued with all French countryside charms, and none of the crowds common to more touristy French regions. It is the least industrialized area in France, with the longest-living population and the cleanest air, rewarding those who live there with traditional gastronomy, and a quiet, calm life in the countryside. When I mention I live in the Gers, most people sigh and cock their head knowingly, because its rustic cuisine is legendary, including its famous foie gras, garlic, melons, wild mushrooms, wine, and Armagnac, the oldest brandy in France. Gascons have no concept of the word “urgent” unless it relates to food or sex, and enjoy each moment at a much slower pace of life than their Parisian or Lyonnais countrymen. There is no twenty-first century stress, no noise, just plenty of joie de vivre. 

Each little village in Gascony has its own personality. There are Roman ruins, medieval hilltop villages, more ducks and geese than people, remarkable personal histories, brilliant minds, and swashbuckling literary exploits. This fabled corner of the French hexagon celebrates the lives of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who owned all of Gascony and beyond until she married Henry II of England; Michel de Montaigne, renowned for his “Essais,” a major philosophical work; the Four Musketeers, specifically D’Artagnan, the real-life Charles de Batz de Castelmore, who was born in the Gers village of Lupiac; Cyrano de Bergerac, a Gascon cadet made famous by the playwright Edmund Rostand; and, now, Perry Taylor.

Boulangerie Melee
Credit: Perry Taylor

Perry Taylor’s Love Affair with Gascony

Perry Taylor is often compared to Sempé, the French cartoonist who illustrated many whimsical covers for The New Yorker. Known on both sides of the English Channel for his humorous depictions of Gascony’s inhabitants, both human and animal, Taylor depicts the Gascon’s traditions and local culture, from farmers’ markets, harvest festivals, and village fêtes; to cycling, rugby, and pétanque matches. His love of Gascony and Gascons is unmistakable in his art. 

Taylor was born in Oxford in 1958, in the Cotswold region of England, admired far and wide for its bucolic rolling hills and lush green meadows, sparsely sprinkled with medieval villages. He began drawing at the age of six, learning from his grandfather, a talented calligrapher. Taylor studied fine art and graphic design at the Hornsey School of Art, a notable British institution renowned for its innovative approach to art and design. He became a graphic designer, working for over 15 years in London. In 1991, Taylor turned to advertising, soon becoming an art director for the prominent TBWA agency in Amsterdam. While there, he met his Dutch wife, Caroline, who was the office manager for the International Herald Tribune at the time. 

La vie en rosé
Credit: Perry Taylor

After living in the capital of the Netherlands for 13 years, Taylor and Caroline yearned for a simpler life, away from the daily grind of the city. They first traveled to the famed Côte d’Azur, finding it beautiful, but overcrowded and expensive. Continuing their search for a place to call home, they made an abrupt left turn and headed west to Bordeaux. From Bordeaux, they eventually traveled south to the Gers department, where the quilted landscape of vineyards, farms, and sunflower fields reminded Taylor of his beloved Cotswolds. The couple settled first in the medieval village of Puydarrieux, at the southeastern edge of the Gers. Here, he discovered first-hand that Gascons are independent, fiery, impetuous, brave, swaggering, capricious, boastful, cavalier, mercurial, unfailingly courteous, and very easy to draw. Through his warm-hearted and deft portrayals of French rural life, he’s been adopted by the locals, who call him the “Anglo-Gascon.”

Taylor’s witty compositions are full of mischievous details, capturing the essence of life’s smaller pleasures in southwest France. Using Indian ink and watercolors, he compiled a collection of drawings for his first book, Petites Gasconneries, 144 pages of witty illustrations about the Gascon way of life. (The title is a play on the French word connerie, which means “nonsense” or “stupidity.” So you might translate the title as “Silly Little Gascon Things.”) Originally, one thousand copies were printed in Italy. Within six weeks, all of the books were sold out. Each page depicted a story, a tradition, or a character/characteristic of the region in a way that most readers hadn’t seen before. Petites Gasconneries won the Grand Prix Littéraire de Gascogne, a literary award given to the best book about Gascony and its culture. Since then, Taylor has published four other books of his drawings – Bons Moments,  Le Selfie Gascon, Planète Gascogne, and Plaisirs Simples. He’s also been an artist in residence at the 17th century Château de Lavardens (an art center in the Gers with rotating exhibitions) for five years, charming local Gersois as much as the tourists who travel there.

Credit: Perry Taylor

After a recent move to the village of Marciac, home to the legendary Marciac Jazz Festival, Taylor opened an atelier and store dedicated to his work. In honor of his love of this region, he has been invited to become:

  • A member of the Company of Armagnac Musketeers, which brings together men and women of all ranks, in the most varied fields, to promote the Gascon art of living, Musketeer values ​​such as panache and courage, and the oldest brandy in France (Armagnac). 
  • An Ambassador of the Brotherhood of the Black Pig of Bigorre, an association which unites farmers, artisans, butchers, and meat curers to save the Gascon Black Pig, while preserving and enriching its ecosystem.
  • A member of the Escoubade Brotherhood (Grand Bas Armagnac Association), which promotes Grand Bas-Armagnac and local Armagnac products distilled in the Gers. 

Taylor opened his own publishing company, Anglo-Gascon, in 2016, which is managed by his wife, Caroline. His drawings are available in books, with English translations, as giclée prints on A4 and A3 art paper, on greeting cards, large format canvasses, and, more recently, on tea towels from Tissage Moutet (a Basque and linen weaving company in Orthez, France).

If you love the slow rhythms of country life, you’ll succumb to the pleasures of rural Gascony as captured with endearing perfection by the deft hand of Perry Taylor, illustrateur humoristique

Note: Perry no longer ships books to the U.S. due to problems with delivery via the U.S. postal service, but you can reach out to me on my website for more information about how to get copies.

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