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Jean Berque


Berque was born 31 January 1896, in Rheims; died 27 April 1954, in Paris. Painter, illustrator, decorative artist. Nudes, landscapes, still-lifes.

Jean Berque left his native Rheims for Paris in 1916, enrolling at the Académie Ranson, where he was a pupil of Félix Vallotton, Maurice Denis and Paul Sérusier.

He was called up for military service, but sent home from the front for health reasons in 1917. Berque travelled widely in Morocco, Italy, Spain and southern France, where he met André Dunoyer de Segonzac, Colette and Lise Deharme and (in Collioure) Aristide Maillol.

In 1925, he painted a Road to Calvary for the church of St-Nicaise in Rheims. Later in his career, he produced stage designs for Marivaux's On ne badine pas avec l'amour, at the Comédie Française.

He was made a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur in 1953. His work has featured in a number of group exhibitions, including the Premier Group show at Galerie Druet, Paris in 1924. Other Paris shows included regular exhibitions at Galerie Bernheim, the Salon d'Automne from 1924-1928, and the Tuileries from 1927-1934. In 1931, he exhibited 51 canvases and drawings, and two illustrated books at Galerie Renaissance.

A retrospective of his work as an illustrator was held at Rheims city library in 1992. Berque's favourite subjects included the landscapes of the Midi, and the countryside around Toulon. His nudes often attracted comment: a cover for the review Crapouillot (January 1927) featuring a photograph of one of his figures was banned from Paris news-stands.

Berque illustrated a large number of books: Rabindranath Tagore's Lyrics (1925), Au Maroc (1927) and Le Cœur Sentimental (1934) by Abel Bonnard; André Maurois' Kate (1930); Paul Claudel's Connaissance de l'Est (1930); a French edition of Goethe's Prologue in Heaven (Prolog im Himmel) (1932); Paul Verlaine's Les Amies-filles (1932); The Song of Solomon (1933); the Return of the Prodigal Son. Gospel According to St Luke (1933); Pierre de Ronsard's Poems (1934), Amours de Marie (1942) and Livret de Folastries (1947); Lucretius's On the Nature of Things (De rerum natura) (1934); Anna de Noailles' Les Jardins. Poèmes; Denise Boas's The Sound of Silence (Le bruit du silence) (1935); Pierre Louys' Les Chansons Secrètes de Bilitis (1935), Les Chansons de Bilitis (1946), Trois Filles de leur Mère (c. 1950) and Aphrodite. Mœurs Antiques (1951); Baudelaire's Poems (1935); Gospel Accounts of the Road to Calvary (Le Chemin de Croix selon les Évangiles) (1936); André Mary's Tristan (1937); Denise Boas's Fabulettes (1937) and You Can't Help Your Nature or The Brunette and the Blonde (Tu dépends de ta nature ou la brune et la blonde) (1937); Joachim du Bellay's Œuvres Poétiques. Sonnets de l'Olive (1938); the Apocalypse According to St John (1938); Shelley's Twelve Poems (1939); Colette's Le Blé en Herbe (1946); Paul Jean Toulet's Mon amie Nane (1948).