Courtesy photoLess is more: Vogue artist René Bouché’s “La Parisienne 1945” is among the charming and intriguing illustrations on view at the Legion of Honor.

Courtesy photoLess is more: Vogue artist René Bouché’s “La Parisienne 1945” is among the charming and intriguing illustrations on view at the Legion of Honor.

René Bouché illustrations evoke post-war Paris

In today’s media culture, it’s hard to imagine recording the aftermath of a war with pen and ink drawings.

That’s exactly what fashion illustrator René Bouché did.

Commissioned by Vogue to cover the first post-World War II couture shows in Paris, Bouché found a different world on the streets: people standing in line for bread rations, riding bicycles, flirting in cafés and dealing with paperwork.

“René Bouché: Letters from Post-War Paris” is on display at the Legion of Honor and includes more than 50 drawings. The works were a gift from Denise Fitch, a trustee of the Fine Arts Museums who met Bouché while working as a Vogue editor and later married him.

The exhibition is contained in a side gallery near the entrance to “Man Ray/Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism.” Bouché knew Miller, whose photographs also appeared in Vogue.

Bouché’s drawings are impressive — deeply thoughtful and quickly rendered. Each one captures the energy and effort required of Parisians to rebuild their lives after the war.

His exquisite illustrations of daily life — a woman sitting beside a bag of baguettes, the bombed remains of a building — seem to say more than a glossy photograph might reveal.

Thankfully, Bouché’s keen observations also accompany his work. Some of the typewritten copy is hard to read, and it’s a pity the show doesn’t include larger versions with clearer type.

Among the highlights is a drawing of a woman riding a bicycle titled “La Parisienne 1945.” The colors are subtle, save for the vibrant red satchel slung across her shoulder. The bicycle is drawn in a few swift strokes, enhancing a feeling of motion with a purpose. This is a woman going somewhere.

In his writings, Bouché said the first weeks following the reopening of the Louvre Museum “gave the most reassuring confirmation of the cultural vitality of the French people.”

“There the requirements were not to have much new money to buy new pictures for new apartments, neither to have new relations or to show off, ‘to be part of the crowd.’ The requirements were taste and hunger for good art.”

Excerpts from Bouché’s letters and a selection of drawings were published in Vogue in late 1945. Although he intended to compile them in a book to be titled “The Morning After,” he never did.

Bouché died of a heart attack in 1963. He was 57.

IF YOU GO

René Bouché: Letters From Post-War Paris

Where: Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave., S.F.

When:
9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays; closed Mondays; show closes Oct. 14

Admission: $6 to $10, free for children 12 and under

Contact:
(415) 750-3600, www.legionofhonor.org

“René Bouché: Letters from Post-War ParisArt & MuseumsartsentertainmentFine Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Outdoor dining, as seen here at Mama’s on Washington Square in North Beach in September, is expected to resume in San Franisco this week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF to reopen outdoor dining, personal services

San Francisco will allow outdoor dining and other limited business activity to… Continue reading

Patients line up in their cars to receive a shot at The City’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination site at City College of San Francisco on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Legislation would require SF to create a public COVID-19 vaccine plan — fast

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health would have to come up with… Continue reading

Ian Jameson (center) organized a group of tenant rights activists and assembled at the El Monte City Hall to demand that the City Council there pass an eviction moratorium barring all evictions during the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
California would extend eviction protections to June 30 under proposal

Legislation released Monday would also subsidize rent for low-income tenants

A statue of Florence Nightingale outside the Laguna Honda Hospital is one of only two statues of women in The City. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
S.F. still falling short of goal to represent women in public art

City has few streets or public facilities not named after men

Comedian and actor Bob Odenkirk is among the dozens of performers in Festpocalypse, streaming this weekend to benefit SF Sketchfest. (Courtesy photo)
Bob Odenkirk joins star-studded Festpocalypse gang

Virtual comedy benefit replaces SF Sketchfest this year

Most Read