André Villers (B.1930)

Painting on Cork

Most prominent photographer of Picasso (who gave him his first camera) and leading French artists.

The André Villers Photography Museum, Mougins

In 1947, following a bone tuberculosis, he was hospitalized at a sanatorium in, Vallauris where he stayed for eight years. During that period he was introduced to photography and commenced photographing around Vallauris and its inhabitants.

He met Pablo Picasso in March 1953, who offered him his first camera, a Rolleiflex. He produced many portraits of the painter, and their relationship evolved into strong friendship and working together on hundreds of images based on photographic experiments. In 1962 Heinz Berggruen edited a book, Diurnes (Daytime), based on 30 of these images accompanied by an original text of Jacques Prévert.

Since the 1950s, André Villers has shot many portraits of great artists, among them: Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder, Yves Klein, Jacques Prévert, Alberto Magnelli, Jean Arp, Le Corbusier, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Jean Cocteau, Bram van Velde, César Baldaccini, Hans Hartung, Pierre Soulages, Antoni Clavé, Antoni Tàpies, Francis Ponge, Luis Buñuel, Federico Fellini, Léo Ferré, Michel Butor, Ben Vautier, Henri Dutilleux, Zao Wou Ki .

In 1970 he began to experiment with a new way of creating his photography without a camera. He made the negatives himself from pieces of tracing paper. This series was exhibited and a book was released with a text by Michel Butor, Pliages d’Ombres (Folding Shadows).

Since then, his personal photographic work is based upon experimentation with shadows and transparencies. He has tried to use several emulsion techniques (solarisations, jets of developer).

In the mid-1950s he began a set of carvings titled Ex-Photos that were exhibited in 1970 at the Loeb Gallery in Paris, then in the 1980s he did an important set of paintings on cardboard, The Photographers,exhibited in Paris, Tokyo and New York by the Yoshii Gallery. His friend David Douglas Duncandevoted a book to it entitled A Secret Garden.

Since the 2000s, he has produced sets of paper cuts works.

In the 1980s, Karel Appelmakes an important set of paintings on photographs of Villers.

In 1984 he published his text Photobiographie recounting his life, his artistic process and his relationship with Picasso in a special issue of Les Cahiers du Sud dedicated to him.

Significant collections of his photographic work can be found at Nicephorus-Niepce Museum in Chalon-sur-Saône and the Museum of Photography in Charleroi in Belgium.

The city of Mougins in the Alpes Maritimes has honoured this photographer with the creation of a Museum of Photography bearing his name.

André Villers was awarded: Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.

The André Villers Photography Museum, Mougins

A first class fine art post-modern photographic museum, with a legacy that incorporates the historicism of European modern art, and contemporary photography.

Rated as one of the top ten museums of photography in the world, it provides dramatic regional back-drop featuring the photography of André Villers. It includes a rare fascinating photo-documentation of his personal friendship with Pablo Picasso, (who lived in Mougin from 1961 to his death on 8 April 1973).

There are iconic photographs of the key modern avant-garde, that include post-war European writers, artists and intellectuals, such as; Jean Cocteau, Fernand Léger, Salavador Dali, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Arman , Yves Klein, César Baldaccini, Paul Éluard, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Winston Churchill, Catherine Deneuve, Édith Piaf, all whom visited, lived or were associated with the area.