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René Iché (1897-1954): Art in Struggle

24 June – 3 September 2023

Sculptor René Iché is present in La Piscine collections thanks to two acquisitions and a donation by the museum’s Friends Society, which demonstrate his talents as a portrait artist (The Teacher; Medal for the parliamentary jubilee of Albert Sarraut) and his exemplary political commitment (Mask of Resistant). The French state also recently provided Roubaix with a long-term loan of an allegorical statuette with considerable heritage value. Symbolising the French Resistance, it was gifted to De Gaulle for his London office: La Déchirée (The Torn), an image of a weakened and blinded France, denouncing the German occupation and the collaboration of the French state.

Around these sculptures, – and thanks to research carried out by the artist’s granddaughter – works from the family collection, private and public collections will be united in a previously unseen exhibition, aiming to highlight a key figure of the French 20th century art scene, in order to understand both the artist himself and the era during which he lived. Between tradition and modernity, between expression and understatement.

At the heart of René Iché’s work, the struggle can be understood as a physical one-on-one, whether in a carnal or sports context, or as a fight, a form of resistance, defending a cause. Supported by Bourdelle, this WW1 veteran imagined his first versions of Man Succumbing and Wrestlers in a primitive form in Montparnasse. Two decades later, having joined the Resistance as part of the Musée de l’Homme network, Iché returned to them again and again in an almost obsessive way.

Very early on, he supported the themes and commitments of the surrealists, as shown in his Unknown Girl from the Seine and the masks of André Breton and Paul Éluard. Created in the 1930s and 40s, The Teacher, Fragment of Young Captive, Melpomène 36, Guernica, The Torn and the Resistance masks are portraits or psychological figures and manifestos in equal measures. After the Liberation, Iché placed his Hostages in Puiseaux and Wrestlers in Carcassonne in open spaces, where monumental sculpture goes hand in hand with architecture. He died prematurely in Paris in 1954, having just been appointed to design the Monument to the Martyrs of Auschwitz.

This exhibition is co-produced with the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Quimper, where it will be shown in autumn 2023.

Expert Curator Rose-Hélène Iché, granddaughter of the artist, Journalist and Art Historian, Editorial Director of the specialist publication Surréalismus

General Curators in Roubaix Alice Massé and Bruno Gaudichon

General Curator in Quimper: Florence Rionnet

Catalogue published to coincide with the exhibition. The design was made possible thanks to generous support from Tollens paints.

See also