René Buthaud was seen as the most accomplished and important French ceramist of the Art Deco period, an opinion held to this day. He designed simple stoneware forms, made for him by local potters, and used crackle glazes with which to decorate them. He was also influenced by African tribal art, evident in those pieces where he used lusters or what he called ‘peau de serpent’ (snakeskin). Many of his best-known pieces are painted with supine female nudes. Work by Buthaud can be found in the collections of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among many others.
René Buthaud was born in Sainte on December 14, 1886. He was a student at the École des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux from 1903 to 1907, and on receiving a grant from the Bordeaux municipal authorities, went to Paris to study at the École des Beaux-Arts until 1913. Here he concentrated on painting and engraving. He was trained when he was very young by an engraver on silver who taught him how to handle a burin. In 1911 many of his portraits and landscapes were exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Français. They were awarded the Attainville Prize, an honor comparable to the Prix de Rôme. His engravings would eventually receive the second Prix de Rôme in 1914.
On returning to Bordeaux in 1918 after serving in WWI, After his military service, René showed an interest in other disciplines and learned the techniques of glass-making and ceramics. His colleagues in Bordeaux, the painters Jean Dupas and René Bissiere, encouraged him to work in ceramics. He soon concentrated on decorated ceramics. He built a kiln which could attain a temperature of 95°C, which allowed for the creation of enameled ceramics. It is here that Buthaud displayed his talent for transforming a drawing into an object. The vegetal patterns of the first years were soon replaced by geometric compositions and, above all, by nude figures adapted to the curves of his vases, as well as narrative scenes. By using his proven talents as a painter and engraver, René Buthaud was able to develop a highly personal style for his extremely successful ceramics.
In 1919 his ceramic creations were the only ones to be exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in Paris. The following year his work was displayed at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs and the Salon d'Automne at the Grand Palais in Paris. His work received critical acclaim from fellow artists such as Maurice Denis and Jean Dunand, with Dunand purchasing some of Buthaud’s first works in ceramics.
So impressed was Dunand with Buthaud's work that he put his name in nomination for the Florence Blumenthal Prize. Donated by an American, this prize was intended for an artist under 35 years of age who was a veteran of World War I. The first prize awarded by this foundation, at that time 25,000 French francs, went to Buthaud in 1921.
In 1925 Buthaud was a member of the jury at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs. Here he exhibited "hors concours," once again receiving high praise. Returning to Bordeaux that same year, he replaced his wood-burning kiln with a coal fired one, enabling him to increase the temperature to 125°C. Thanks to this improvement, he perfected his ceramics techniques. Under contract to Galerie Rouard in Paris, he exhibited there from 1928 to 1965. During this period, he often signed his works "J. Doris". After 1940, he concentrated on images of women, in the form of stylized odalisques, idealized female figures, and mythological goddesses. He died at the age of 100 in 1987. His works are displayed in many museums, including the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Bordeaux, his adopted city, the Musée National de la Céramique in Sèvres, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum.