BISSIÈRE Roger
In his paintings one frequently finds a style of composition which recalls that of his tapestry hangings parallel bands themselves formed very often of superposed rectangles.
French painter born at Villeréal in the Lot-et-Garonne in 1888. He comes to Paris in 1910, and in order to earn a living he becomes a journalist. He meets Lhote in 1919, Braque in 1921. Only in 1920 did he begin to exhibit, first at the Salon d'Automne. then at the Salon des Indépendants. He was a member of the Esprit Nouveau group and published, in the review of that name, a series of studies on modern painting and the old masters, the result of long meditation on the problems of art. At that time Bissière was one of the painters who were trying to humanize Cubism. His severe constructions were brightened by subtle nuances of colour. He became widely known through his many exhibitions. But far from seeking to exploit his success and develop the happy and balanced vein of his art, he broke completely with anything that threatened to become a formula. He preferred to abandon his conquests and devote himself to his still inconclusive researches into accidents of form and the secret chemistry of his materials. During a long period of inner conflict, during which he produced very little that he considered worth exhibiting, Bissière accumulated technical experience and psychological discoveries. He accepted a teaching post at the Académie Ranson, and there found himself in contact with the best of the new generation of painters. Because he put himself on the same plane of research as they, despite difference of age and experience, he soon achieved an extraordinary influence with these painters, attracting to him the most promising and widely varied talents.
However, Bissière was then an almost forgotten painter. In 1938 he decided to retire to the country, in the Lot, where he has been living since. During the war he stopped painting altogether. Serious eye trouble gave rise to fears for his sight. Nevertheless, helped by his wife, he worked at some curious mural canvases, for which he made use of whatever he had at hand -old multicoloured materials, woollens and other fabrics -- to replace the colours he did not have. These he assembled and arranged into grandiose, monumental compositions on profoundly religious themes. The result is striking, and gives an impression of extraordinary freedom. These glittering, barbaric works at once focused attention on the painter, who was renewing himself in this remarkable way. Since then his work has grown remarkably, gradually freeing itself from all representation while retaining a concrete savour all its own. Restless by nature, he is one of those conscientious people who would never seek to exert any influence or play any important role and yet, despite their self-effacement, are masters.
Just as he loves his country life, he loves the popular song: "Je me sens. . . à l'aise à l'ombre d'Edith Piaf" (quoted by Max-Pol Fouchet), he writes in the preface of his catalogue, when he exhibits in 1947, at the Galerie Drouin, paintings as well as tapestry hangings made from pieces of dissimilar material, sewn together. His operation, in 1948, for glaucoma was successful, and his work becomes more optimistic. He exhibits in 1951 Images sans Titre at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher; second exhibition in 1952; he is awarded the Grand Prix National des Arts. In 1942 he publishes with wood engravings the Hymn to the Sun of St. Francis of Assisi (Edition Jeanne Bucher).
His art, which used to have a severe, hieratic character through his link with Cubism, has now emerged from its long retirement full of youth and wonderment.
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