Was Augustin Desombres just another pompous painter, or was he a major artist of the late-19th century? This question is particularly hard to answer as almost all his work seems to have been lost. However the investigations of a young researcher have brought to light some very strange documents, including a series of stunningly modern musical scores.
This film brilliantly combines a range of techniques to plunge us into the poetic world of François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, in collaboration with musician Bruno Letort.


Desombres steps into the limelight

Who is Augustin Desombres?
Finding answers to this question is no easy task. Many unexplored areas remain following the destruction, in 1989, of the Desombres museum in Aubrac and the dispersal of his works and property in the great sale of the following year. It must be admitted that today no mention of Desombres can be found in dictionaries, general or specialist encyclopedias, or even in books on the history of art.
This observation is all the more disturbing given that material proof exists. Three of Desombres’ canvases, including the extraordinary Enfant penchée [‘Girl leaning’] (1897), were recently rediscovered in the vaults of a museum in Albi, as was the artist’s personal notebook and an impressive number of photographs. In addition to this, the musicologist and composer Bruno Letort has examined the notebooks, and discovered musical pieces of amazing modernity. These pieces, which he has finished himself, are collected here for the first time.
Some have claimed that Desombres was a kind of medium whose pictorial researches led him into a parallel universe which he named the “Cities of the fantastic”

One last factor of note is the publication of a thesis on Desombres, the only one thus far identified. While indifference and ignorance on the part of museum curators, collectors and critics have long been factors in the oblivion to which Desombres has been consigned, the research undertaken by young art historian Catherine Aymerie has proved well worthy of the attention paid to it by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters. Amyerie now works as an actress; however, on meeting her Schuiten and Peeters quickly realised that her change of career had done nothing to dampen her passion for Desombres. Catherine Aymerie will be our guide through the life and work of the man once known as ‘the master of Aubrac’.

Cities of the fantastic

The “cities of the fantastic” series, fruit of a collaboration between François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, now consists of thirteen albums, all published in French by Casterman. These works have won a great many prizes and have been translated into a dozen languages.
Although full of references to our world, these books unfold in a parallel universe: a world of fantastic architecture – cities of dreams and nightmares.
Six of the albums consist entirely of comic strips; the others explore different narrative forms: illustrated narratives, newspaper collections, children’s tales, audio drama, etc.
Since 1996 “Cities of the fantastic” has also had an internet presence. The address of the official site is Many other sites (in different languages) can be found at


written and directed by

Benoît Peeters
François Schuiten

original music Bruno Letort
camera Ella van den Hove
sound Jean-Jacques Quinet
editor Laurence Vaes
texts written by Benoît Peeters
drawings François Schuiten
photographs Marie-Françoise Plissart
graphics Laurence Beckers
executive producer Benoît Peeters
associate producer Renaud Barillet

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