Bucher, François


François Bucher (1927 -- 1999)

François Bucher was born in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1927 to Alois Bucher and Gabrielle Zundel. Described as "spectacularly brilliant and urbane," the Guggenheim fellow and Getty scholar spoke six modern languages in addition to Latin and is remembered as an accomplished scholar and philanthropist (Murphy and Massey 1996; Hinson 2000). He attended the Zurich Gymnasium, where he received a B.A. in Art History in 1947. Bucher continued his studies at the universities of Zurich and Rome, and in 1952 he began studying medieval art and lecturing at the University of Bern, Switzerland, under the direction of Hans Hahnloser. While continuing to work on his Ph.D., Bucher immigrated to the United States where he later received multiple appointments at some of the nation's most prestigious institutions and where he remained until his death.
Bucher's move to the United States was prompted by his appointment as an instructor at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis from 1953 to 1954. In 1954 he began teaching as an assistant professor at Yale University. It was during this time, in 1955, that Bucher completed his Ph.D. from the University of Bern. A revised version of his dissertation was published in 1957 and titled, Notre-Dame de Bonmont und die ersten Zisterzienserabteien der Scheiz (Notre Dame de Bonmont and the Earliest Cistercian Monasteries of Switzerland). He continued to elaborate on this theme, publishing his article "Cistercian Architectural Purism" in 1960. In this same year Bucher moved from Yale to Brown University, where he taught as an associate professor until 1963. At Brown, Bucher briefly shifted his focus to modern art and received an M.A. in the subject, publishing Josef Albers: Despite Straight Lines in 1961. A revised edition of the Albers book reworked in collaboration with the artist was published in 1977.
While at Brown University, Bucher served as the secretary of the International Center for Medieval Art (1960 -- 1964) and acted as editor for the organization's journal, Gesta. In 1963 he received his first appointment as a full professor at Princeton University, where he befriended Albert Einstein. Bucher would later recall discussing the "nonsense of nuclear weapons, the speed of light, and Gregorian chants versus Jewish music" with Einstein, whom Bucher credited as influencing his later philanthropic projects (Murphy and Massey 1996). Bucher taught at Princeton until 1970, when he left for a position at the State University of New York at Binghamton. While at Binghamton he edited a facsimile of the Pamplona Bibles (1971). The facsimile combines pictures reproduced from two separate volumes, one produced at Amiens and the other at Harburg (Werckmeister 1973: 445). In his commentary, Bucher provided descriptions of the two Bibles and of a third later edition of the manuscript. He also linked the Pamplona Bibles with pictorial traditions derived from early medieval Spanish illuminations through a survey of contemporary regional styles (Werckmeister 1973: 447).
In 1978 Bucher became a professor at Florida State University, Tallahassee, where he taught until his retirement in 1996. In 1979 he undertook an impressive facsimile project that proposed to reproduce, with commentary, eleven Gothic and post-Gothic architectural sketchbooks and patterns by figures such as Villard de Honnecourt. The first volume of the facsimile titled, Architector: the Lodge Books and Sketchbooks of Medieval Architects, was published in 1979 and was intended to be the first of four volumes, the last three of which were never produced (Kidson 1981: 329). Architector included reproductions of drawings by the fore mentioned Villard de Honnecourt, Master WG of Frankfurt, and Hans Böblinger. The facsimile brought together documents that were both previously published and unpublished, providing an important resource for architectural and art historians. Bucher intended to include essays by notable Gothic scholars, including his mentor, Hans Hahnloser, in the proposed four volumes, but these were never completed.
Carl Barnes, Jr., in his review of Architector, noted that the basic theme throughout Bucher's study was the, "omnivorous curiosity of the Gothic architects and the variety of artistic activities required of them in their profession" (Barnes 1981: 596). This passion for architecture and design can be traced to Bucher's earliest work at the University of Bern, where he focused on the architecture of his countrymen in his dissertation. When Peter Kidson questioned the validity of Bucher's argument that Villard de Honnecourt was an actual architect in his review of Architector (Kidson 1981: 330), Bucher himself responded in a letter to the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians defending his position. Bucher again stressed the "omnivorous nature of architects from Vitruvius to Mies van der Rohe," pointing out that Medieval architects were involved in many aspects of a building's design and construction, an essential point in his argument that Villard de Honnecourt was an architect (Bucher 1982: 170).
Bucher's interest in architecture and modern art were combined in 1980, when he designed and began construction of a scholar's retreat and meeting center known as the Nautilus Foundation on a 400-acre plot of land in Lloyd, Florida, near Florida State University. Bucher described the foundation as a "kind of think tank, a place to promote creative thinking of ways to build a better world" (Murphy and Massey 1996). The foundation opened in 1990 with Bucher's hope that scholars would live and work at the secluded site to "ensure ? an acceptable world free from environmental hazards and pollutants" (Murphy and Massey 1996). Bucher lived at the Nautilus Foundation until his death in 1999. The foundation and Bucher's extensive personal collection of art and artifacts were bequeathed by Bucher to The Collins Center for Public Policy at Florida State University, which now uses the Lloyd facility as the home of the Collins Center for Public Policy.
In 1984 Bucher published Ein Strahlendes Ende (A Radiant End), an apocalyptic novel about the destruction of the world due to atomic bombs. Described as "an exotic combination of a classically trained Old World intellectual and a lifelong Bohemian," (Sorenson) François Bucher will be remembered for his many insightful contributions to the study of medieval architecture and his ardent passion for intellectual thought and progress.

Sources Consulted
Barnes, Carl F. "Review of Architector: The Lodge Books and Sketchbooks of Medieval
Architects by François Bucher." Speculum 56:3 (July 1981): 595 -- 598.

Bucher, François. "Letter." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 41:2
May 1982): 170.

Hinson, Mark. "Obituaries: François Bucher." Florida State Times Online 5 (February/March
2000). http://www.fsu.edu/~fstime/FS-Times/Volume5/febma00/14feb00.html.

Kidson, Peter. "Review of Architector: The Lodge Books and Sketchbooks of Medieval
Architects by François Bucher." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 40:4
Dec., 1981): 329 -- 331.

Murphy, Jamie and Brian L. Massey. "The Trivium: Where Nature Meets the Arts." Florida
State Times Online 2 (November 1996). http://www.fsu.edu/~fstime/FS

Sorenson, Lee. "Bucher, François." Dictionary of Art Historians.

Werckmeister, O.K. "Review of The Pamplona Bibles by François Bucher." The Art Bulletin
55:3 (Sep., 1973): 444 -- 448.

Bucher, François. Die Zisterzienserabtei Notre-Dame de Bonmont im Zusammenhang mit der
burgundisch-transjuranischen Gruppe. PhD diss., University of Bern, 1955.

__________. Notre-Dame de Bonmont und die ersten Zisterzienserabteien der Schweiz. Bern:
Benteli, 1957.

__________. "Cistercian Architectural Purism." Comparative Studies in Society and History
3:1 (Oct. 1960): 89 -- 105.

__________. "A Failure of Architectural Purism." Perspecta 6 (1960): 5 -- 15.

__________. Josef Albers: Despite Straight Lines. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961.

__________. "Impressions of Russian Museums and Churches." Art Journal 21:2 (winter, 1961
-- 1962): 79 -- 84.

__________, and Bruno Toscano. "I.C.R.A. Excavates in Spoleto. The Palace of Theoderic (?) in
Spoleto." Gesta ½ (1964): 29 -- 47.

__________. "Design in Gothic Architecture: A Preliminary Assessment." Journal of the Society
of Architectural Historians 27:1 (March 1968): 49 -- 71.

---------------, "The Dresden Sketchbook of Vault Projection," Acts of the International Congress of Art History, Budapest, 1969, vol. 1, 528

__________. The Pamplona Bibles: A Facsimile Compiled From Two Picture Bibles with
Martyrologies Commissioned by King Sancho el Fuerte of Navarra (1194-1234): Amiens
manuscript Latin 108 and Harburg MS. 1, 2, Lat. 4?, 15. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971.

__________. "Medieval Architectural Design Methods, 800 -- 1560." Gesta 11:2 (1972): 37 --

__________. "Micro-Architecture as the 'Idea' of Gothic Theory and Style." Gesta 15:1/2
(1976): 71 -- 89.

__________, and Josef Albers. Josef Albers: Despite Straight Lines: An Analysis of His
Graphic Constructions. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1977.

__________ "Notes on the Last Works of Josef Albers." Boundary 2 5:3 (Spring, 1977): 931 --

__________. "David M. Freudenthal (1895 -- 1977)." Gesta 16:2 (1977).

__________. "A Rediscovered Tracing by Villard de Honnecourt." The Art Bulletin 59:3 (Sep.,
1977): 315- 319.

__________. Architector: the Lodge Books and Sketchbooks of Medieval Architects. New York:
Abaris Books, 1979.

__________. Ein Strahlendes Ende. München: Bertelsmann, 1984.

__________. "SEMPER RESURGET: Analecta of the International Center of Medieval Art."
Gesta 25:2 (1986): 167 -- 170.

Kathleen McCampbell
FSU, Ph.D. student

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