Joel Roche Biography

Joel Roche




Printmaker Joël Roche was born in Clermont-Ferrand, France, in January of 1939.  At eighteen he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts of Clermont-Ferrand, despite the protests of his father, an engineer. He started as a painter and illustrator, created his first engraving, "Arborescence et nu," in 1958, and was accepted into the École des Beaux-Arts of Paris the next year. There, under the patronage of Cami and Coutaud, he found his true vocation as an engraver, with the burin as his tool of preference.

In 1968 Roche won the 2nd Grand Prix de Rome de Gravure, the last year this prize was given. This piece, "La Belle Magicienne," is typical of his work, portraying a tall and slender feminine figure, surrounded by exuberant and extremely detailed vegetation, objects and animals. Following this, he won a number of prestigious titles over the years, from the Académie des Beaux-Arts, the salon des Artistes Français, and the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts to name a few.

In 1978, he began to teach at the Paris Val de Seine School of Art and Architecture. He became known for his meticulous work, where incongruous geometrical shapes are intertwined with human and animal figures. Artist Jean-Eugène Bersier said about Roche: « Nous voyons un Lunven comme un Joël Roche rechercher avec une insistance étrange et un métier parfait l’expression d’un surréalisme inquiétant » (We see a Lunven like a Joël Roche, seeking with strange insistence and a perfect technique the expression of a disturbing surrealism) (J.-E. Bersier, La Gravure, les procédés, l’histoire, 1963 – 4e éd. 1984, p. 369 et pl. 157).

In addition to his personal work, he was a very enthusiastic and generous teacher, and very active in organizing and participating in various exhibitions in France and abroad. Later in life he taught from his studio in Paris on Rue Ricaut, and offered countryside internships at Mareau-aux-Bois in the Loiret. Vincent Delaury wrote about Roche: "Loving to transmit his knowledge and share with others, this engraver possesses the cardinal virtue of suggesting without hindering." He also worked with other engravers in "engraved dialogues" that he himself defined as followed: "The principle of an engraved dialogue is to work in turn on the same plate. As in a conversation, each phase (sentence) responds to the previous one or resumes the speech interrupted by the work of the other artist."

In December of 2013, he received the Medal of Honor from the Salon des Artistes Français. A year later, the same organization held a posthumous tribute to him in November, five months after his death in June of 2014.

Biography courtesy of Alize (Roche) Dhote