World-famous artist and Burlington-based Cecile Houel was featured at the Washington, Iowa gallery


The French artist and now in Burlington resident Cecile Houel (pronounced “good”) shows her art in October at Art Domestique, 118 S. Iowa Ave. in Washington.

She is perhaps best known for her project of painting the portraits of all Nobel Peace Prize winners. She recently completed her 21st portrait, which is a native of Norman Borlaug in Cresco, Iowa. Her first portrait was Dr. Martin Luther King. She still has about 100 portraits left and by the age of 57 considers it a lifelong project.

She chooses her winners at random, researches extensively who they are and why they received the Nobel Peace Prize. She then completes a series of charcoal and / or pencil studies before painting the final four by four foot portrait in oils. In it she finds peace and believes that art can contribute to world peace.

100% of your income comes from arts and art classes. She has a spacious mega studio and gallery in Burlington that is open to the public by appointment.

In addition to selling art and teaching, Houel also does commissioned work and has several sponsors and patrons. (She is the only completely independent artist I know.) And she is very dedicated to her work and believes with passion in being successful and being successful. She enjoys art.

Curt Schwarm

Some of the Nobel Laureate portraits she completed alongside Borlaug and King are Liu Ziaobo, Rigoberta Menchu ​​Tum, Andrei Sakharov, Shirin Ebadi, Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, and Barack Obama.

Of course, painting Nobel Laureate portraits is far from her only art.

She lives in Burlington, goes to the Mississippi River almost every morning, meditates, and collects driftwood, lotus flowers, and a variety of other river goodies like corn stalks and floating shoes. (I’m serious.) With the driftwood, she makes beautiful, breathtaking wooden sculptures. She could decorate the driftwood sculptures with dried, gold-painted lotus flowers. She dips the roots of the corn stalks in acrylic paint and uses them as a brush to paint abstract paintings, even the tips of driftwood sticks as a brush.

Cecile Houel with her driftwood sculpture "Dance with me you my king"

And the old shoes? Houel made a shoe sculpture out of shoes – a large shoe out of shoes. Her title: “All together we can take a big step.” However, the shoe became so big and heavy that she had to dismantle it. Does anyone need shoes?

Her four main areas of art are: her God’s Feet Project, the Nobel Peace Prize Project, Pastels and Charcoal, and Driftwood Sculptures. The God’s Feet Project: To fulfill her spiritual search, Cecile decided to bring her creativity to “God’s Feet”. She expresses her deepest inspiration in very large format murals and sculptures on the subject she calls “God’s Feet” and develops several ideas on the subject, starting with the four elements earth, water, air and fire.

Houel has been in the United States for 14 years and has dual citizenship in France and America. She has studied with well-known artists and has received exhibitions and awards all over the world. Her pictures hang all year round in the Bereskin Gallery in Bettondorf. Houel loves America and says, “There is so much energy and freedom here.” She travels back and forth teaching art classes both in France, where she has children and a grandchild, and in the United States.

More:Cecile Houel of Fort Madison and France directs art exhibitions by women in the Quad Cities

She will soon be teaching classes in Quincy, Illinois, and a week-long pastel workshop in Brittany, France in June 2022, mixing American and French students. More information is available on their website

Stop by Art Domestique in Washington and see for yourself the paintings by Cecile Houel.

Curt Swarm is a writer, columnist, metal sculpture, and photographer based out of Mount Pleasant. You can reach him at (319) 217-0526, email [email protected], or visit his website at

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