Odilon ROCHE (Châteauneuf-sur-Loire 1868 – Six-Fours-les Plages 1947)
Odilon Roche was one among many fascinating characters in Paris in the first quarter of the 20th century. He actually began his professional career as a wine taster, travelling throughout Europe attending wine fairs. In 1902 Roche opened a shop in Montmartre selling artists’ supplies, among his customers Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir, Maurice Denis and Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen. In 1905 he opened a second shop selling Persian and Chinese antiques, which soon became a fashionable rendezvous for cultured Parisians. It is not known where and from whom Roche received his artistic training, but it is likely to have come as a result of the opportunity he received in 1917. That year his friend Léonce Bénédite, the executor of Auguste Rodin’s will and soon to be the first curator of the Musée Rodin, asked Roche to classify the entire contents of the sculptor’s studio, including countless boxes of loose drawings and watercolours. The decade Roche spent on this immense project would have given him ample opportunity to study Rodin’s distinctive style and technique as a draughtsman. As a result Roche’s own drawings and watercolours, especially of female nudes, display the profound influence of those of the great sculptor. On his retirement in 1931, Roche settled in the town of Six-Fours-les Plages, southwest of Toulon, where he continued to paint his watercolours, now including coastal scenes and landscapes. Eccentric personality, he continued to produce drawings and watercolours purely for his own pleasure. Roche does not seem to have ever sold or exhibited his work, and it was not until the early 1970’s that Roche’s work was rediscovered.
Paris, Musée Rodin
Strasbourg, Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain
Tournus, Musée Greuze
New York, The Metropolitan Museum
Washington, The National Gallery of Art