"My style may be described as a kind of loving criticism" RB 1959


Bouché had his first three exhibitions at Alexander Iolas gallery.

The following text is from the 1991 exhibition program of his portraits at Achim Moeller Fine Art in New York.

RENE ROBERT BOUCHE (Robert August Buchstein) was born on 20th September 1905, in Austro-Hungarian Prague.
By the age of 15 in Munich, he has already become an illustrator and meets Richard Lindner, who will remain his lifelong friend. In 1926 at age 21, he studies art history under Heinrich Wölfflin at Munich University while earning a living as an illustrator of children’s books.
The Following year he moves to Berlin and adopts the name René Robert Bouché. He becomes a professional illustrator and meets his first wife, Margo (Pony) Schoenlank. Shortly after Hitler comes to power, René and Pony leave for Paris where he studies with Amedée Ozenfant at the Académie Ozenfant. In January 1934 their son, Michel, is born.

Between 1934 and 1938 René Bouché contributes drawings to the magazine Plaisir de France and advertising for Nestlé. In 1938, he begins his work for Vogue (Condé Nast), to which he remains committed throughout his life. While in France, René is separated from his wife and son and forced to escape from advancing German forces, making his way to Cassis-sur-Mer, and after a brief period in a detention camp eventually arrives in Lisbon. From there he leaves for the United State on what was to be one of the last crossing before Pearl Harbor.
When he arrives in the New World, the young artist enlists in the army, but an accident the night before his enrollment leaves him with severe injuries and a long hospitalization. Honorably discharged from the army, he gains U.S. citizenship, continues his work for Vogue, and illustrates advertisements for Saks Fifth Avenue and Elizabeth Arden, where he is their chief advertising campaign illustrator. In 1944 he teaches at the Art Students League. After the war, he is reunited with his wife and son, but the couple soon separate and are divorced in 1954.

Up to the late forties, René Bouché’s paintings are figurative, and in 1948 he becomes absorbed in abstract expressionism, joining Motherwell, de Kooning and Pollock as a member of the The Eighth Street Avant-Garde Painters Club. He loses interest in abstract expressionism by 1953 and decides to concentrate on portraits. At the same time he is among the most successful and original advertising illustrators of his time.

We know his portraits of CBS radio and television personalities like Jack Benny, Edward R. Murrow, and Ed Sullivan, and his numerous Time Magazine covers. His remarkable watercolors for Schweppes and his advertising campaign for Jaguar lead to a major commission from Buick (GM). He designs stage sets and costumes for the Theatre Guild’s Child of Fortune (1954) and the American Ballet Theater’s Offenbach in the Underworld (1956). His murals for the Seven Hills of Rome restaurant in the New York Hilton (1962) were the last major commission in his career.

He meets an editor of Vogue, Denise Lawson-Johnston, in 1956 and marries her in 1962. During the winter of 1962, he embarks on a new style. The strong black lines so characteristic of his drawings are replaced by large patterns of color, defining forms. This is followed by a rather radical change just two weeks before his death in 1963 in East Grinstead, England, when he draws with charcoal. These drawings are totally devoid of color, features only emerging through patterns of lines. However his portraits, both drawing sand paintings, constitute the most significant testimony to René Bouché’s talent. He finds New York a formidable stage for his characters and draws and paints with freedom and dedication some of the city’s most fascinating and eccentric, resident and visiting personalities, particularly from the world of the arts. Braque, Lipchitz, Cocteau, Stravinsky, Calder, de Kooning, Motherwell, Saul Steinberg, and Clement Greenberg are among his subjects, and a selection of their portraits is included in this present exhibition.

Only three months before he died on 3rd July 1963, René Bouché writes in his notebook: “Today, as ever—and perhaps even more than ever—our only common credo is the human enigma.”
René Bouché called his portraiture “loving criticism,” and as a portrait painter he is in a class of his own.

Photos of the artist