Jean René Richard was born in a Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. He settled in Canada (Gold Lake) with his family in 1909. In 1926, he studied drawing and painting in Edmonton, Alberta, and in 1927-1930 at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, and at the Académie Colarossi in Paris. During his stay in Paris, he became friends with Clarence Gagnon and James Wilson Morrice. Clarence Gagnon encouraged him to become a full-time artist.
Working in different mediums, his most notable subjects include semi-abstract landscapes, often with trappers, an occupation he pursued in Western Canada and in the Arctic (1930-42, 1952). In 1942, René Richard settled in Baie-St-Paul, exhibiting regularly in Quebec City and Montreal. In 1952, he went back to Northern Quebec. In 1967, the Quebec Fine Arts Museum presented a solo exhibition of his work and ten years later, dedicated a retrospective to him. He also illustrated “Menaud maître draveur”, by Felix Antoine Savard.