VILLON Jacques

Gaston Duchamp, known as “Jacques Villon”, was born on 31 July 1875 in Damville (Eure). He is the eldest of six children, four of whom devoted themselves to art.

Initiated to art at a very young age by his grandfather Emile Nicolle, a painter and engraver, he made his first prints at the age of 16, a technique he would practice throughout his life.

In 1894, he enrolled in law school but abandoned his studies in favor started working at Cormon’s studio. It was at this time that he adopted the pseudonym “Jacques Villon”, in reference to Alphonse Daudet’s novel “Jack” and out of admiration for the medieval poet François Villon.

In 1906, he moved to one of the three pavilions at 7 rue Lemaître in Puteaux, where he was joined by his brother Raymond Duchamp-Villon and the Czech painter Frantisek Kupka. Painting occupies a growing place in the artist’s activity. We find in his paintings the influence of Manet and the Fauves.

In 1911, under the influence of his brother Marcel Duchamp, Villon began his cubist adventure. His studio in Puteaux became a meeting place for some of the Parisian avant-garde, including Walter Pach, Frantisek Kupka, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Albert Gleizes, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Metzinger, Francis Picabia, Fernand Léger, Robert Delaunay… known as “le Groupe de Puteaux”. All these artists claim a cubist and abstract aesthetic, without having any link with Braque and Picasso.

Mobilized on the second day of the First World War, Villon went to fight in the Somme and was called up in 1916. When he returned from the front in 1918, he returned to painting and even more so to engraving. This was the beginning of his abstract period. His canvases are monochrome and not very colorful.

From 1922 to 1933, Villon is in a difficult financial situation which pushes him to undertake for the Bernheim-Jeune gallery a series of engravings interpreting the works of the great masters: Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Rouault, Picasso, Braque… During this period, the artist is more known in the United States than in France. Around 1930, Villon returned to painting, inspired by the color theories of the physicist Ogden Rood, which earned him the nickname of “cubist impressionist painter”.

The year 1937 marked the beginning of his official recognition. He received two honorary diplomas and a gold medal at the International Exhibition of Arts and Techniques in Paris. He was then made a knight of the Legion of Honor. In 1939, he meets the gallery owner Louis Carré, who ensures the exclusivity of his production and organizes numerous monographic exhibitions in France and the United States.

In 1950, he was invited to the 25th Venice Biennale, which reserved a room for him. The same year, he received the Carnegie Medal at the Pittsburg exhibition. The following year, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris devoted a major retrospective to his work.

Jacques Villon died on June 9, 1963. He is buried in the family vault in Rouen.