René Robert Bouché (Robert August Buchstein) was born on 20th September 1905, in Austro-Hungarian Prague.
In 1926 at the age of 21, he studied art history at Munich University while earning a living as an illustrator of children’s books. In 1927 he moved to Berlin and adopted the name René Robert Bouché.
Having left Berlin for Paris after Hitler came to power, Bouché started making drawings for the magazine Plaisir de France and advertising for Nestlé. In 1938, he began his work for Vogue.
While in France, Bouché was separated from his first wife Margo Schoenlank and their son Michael and forced to escape from advancing German forces. From Lisbon, he crossed the Atlantic for the United States where he gained US citizenship and continued his work for Vogue. He illustrated advertisements for Saks Fifth Avenue and Elizabeth Arden.
In 1948 he became interested in abstract expressionism and became a member of The Eighth Street Avant-Garde Painters Club before deciding to concentrate on portraiture. Braque, De Kooning, Calder and Motherwell sat for him, as did Capote, Auden, Huxley and the Kennedy family to whom he became known simply as ‘Paintbrush’. Time magazine regularly featured his work on their covers.
Throughout the Fifties Bouché was sent on a number of travel assignments for Condé Nast that took him to Japan to study the rituals of the geishas, to Dublin for the horse races and the French Riviera to witness the European Aristocracy at play. The works produced on these trips are some of the most evocative of the period and reveal Bouché to be an artist with an exceptional eye, flair and extraordinary confidence. He also travelled regularly to Paris to cover the couture collections.
In 1962 Bouché married Denise Lawson-Johnston, an editor at Vogue whom he had met in 1956 (although reunited with Margo after the war, they divorced in 1954). The marriage was a short one as Bouché died in England on the day he was commissioned to paint the Archbishop of Canterbury, 3rd July 1963.