RENE BOUCHE chose a narrow field. Within it he developed superbly and became a master… Bouché was in fact more a megapolitan than any of the people he drew or painted. One saw him most intimately in London or Paris, if not in New York, to which he came just after the fall of France in World War II, primarily to work for Vogue. During his years on the magazine he went through many phases, including an abstract one.
Eventually he became a master of social portraiture, with almost the best of his paintings portraits of men. His Jacques Lipchitz, now owned by the Whitney Museum, is a thinly painted but massive, memorable characterization which captures the heroic dignity of Lipchitz as a man. His large head of Stravinsky achieved a startling monumentality. His pencil study of Frederick Kiesler, owned by the Museum of Modern Art, shows Bouché at his best for the analysis is sympathetic, but also quick, intuitive, and penetrating. (Bouché described the drawing as “a matter-of-fact, though benevolent, insight into a human physiognomy.”) In time Bouché no longer sought commissions, but rather refused them. Among his notable paintings are the portrait of Braque…now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and…Elsa Maxwell, like a Velasquez dwarf stuffed into a vertical frame.
One evening not so long ago René Bouché spoke to me about his work. He said that he believed that warmth, dignity, elegance, and sophistication, even charm, are positive values for the painter, not to be effaced but rather to be nourished and kept beautiful. Although he admired the vanguard of American artists, his personal friends, he decided not to keep in step with them. He made a decision and quite deliberately set out to make his work and life one. He succeeded.
From an appreciation by William S. Lieberman, Vogue, September 1963