Bernard Lorjou French, 1908-1986


Born in Loir et Cher, France, in 1908, Lorjou was the youngest of three children in a very poor family. He lived in extreme poverty, even to the extent of needing to sleep at the Orsay train station during his teenage years. In 1934, after having worked at a renowned silk house and having enough money saved, Lorjou opened a studio in Montmartre with his partner Yvonne Mottet. He exhibited for the first time at the Salon des Indépendants in 1942. Three years later, he held his first solo exhibition at the Galerie du Bac in Paris. In 1946, the Galerie du Bac held a seminal exhibition dedicated to the emerging Expressionist artists of France, Belgium and Germany, including Lorjou, Soutine, Rouault, Ensor, and Beckman. It was at that same gallery that Lorjou would exhibit in 1948—after receiving the Prix de la Critique award—in order to effectively found, with five other members, the artistic group L’Homme Témoin, which defended figurative painting during the aesthetic and political tumult of the mid-twentieth century.


Lorjou enjoyed successful business relationships with Galerie Wildenstein, Wally Findlay,  over the course of his career. Additionally, he was a friend to such modern luminaries as Guillaume Apollinaire, for whom he created a series of wood engravings as illustrations for his work “Le Bestiare.” His work was often religious and frequently political, acting as commentary on topics ranging from the AIDS crisis and world hunger to the Algerian war and conflict in the Middle East; he completed commissions for the United Nations and was invited by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco to exhibit in the Monte-Carlo casino. In 1977, he was the Guest of Honor at the Salon des Artistes Français. One year before his death, the Palais de l’Europe organized his retrospective in Menton, France.

Museums and Public Collections

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Birmingham Museum of Art

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Farhat Cultural Center

Victoria and Albert Museum

Birmingham Museum of Art

Saint Louis University Museum of Art

University of Arizona Museum of Art

Cleveland Museum of Art

Carnegie Museum of Art

Corning Museum

Black Mountain College Museum

National Gallery of Victoria, Australia

Museum of Modern Art

Düsseldorf Museum

Centre Georges Pompidou

Kimbell Art Museum

Request information

Please notify me when works by Bernard Lorjou become available.