Image description

Andre Villers (1930 - 2015)


Artists' photographs

Villers was born in Beaucourt. 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 started making in 1952 his first experiments in the darkroom, and pictures of Vallauris and its inhabitants.

He met Pablo Picasso there in March 1953, who offered him his first camera, a Rolleiflex. Villers produced many portraits of the painter, and their relationship evolved into working together, making 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 by Jacques Prévert.

Since the 1950s, Villers shot many portraits of great artists, among them: Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder, 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, and 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 was based upon experimentation with shadows and transparencies. He tried to use several emulsion techniques (solarisations, jets of developer).

In the mid-1950s Villers began a set of carvings titled Ex-Photos that were exhibited in 1970 at the Loeb Gallery in Paris. 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 Duncan devoted a book to it entitledA Secret Garden.

In the 1980s, Karel Appel made an important set of paintings on photographs of Villers. Later, Robert Combas also worked with him.

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 Suddedicated to him.

Since the 2000s, he produced a set of paper cuts works.

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 honored Villers with the creation of a Museum of Photography bearing his name.

On July 14, 2006, André Villers became a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.

He died on 1 April 2016.