Discovering Eugene Villon


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The Artist's Biography
Prizes and distinctions
Society of Watercolour Painters
Art Gallery
Public Collections
Reasoned Catalogue
Legal Mentions

His Identity

Eugène Louis François Villon was born in La Haye, Netherlands, on December 26th 1879. His father, Eugène Constant Villon was French and lived in Falaise (Calvados) and his mother Aldegonde Marie Françoise Antoinette de Haan was Dutch.

His Childhood

Illustration for Calixte

He lived in the Netherlands for his whole childhood and teenage years. During this period, his passion already being drawing and painting, he studied on his own and became inbued with the Dutch painting school. With his mother, a genuine accomplice, they settled in Nice, France.

The Art school

In Nice, he registered at the Art school in which he was taught by Auguste Clément Joseph Herst. He therefore received a classical teaching, from learning how to draw to learning how to paint. A skilled pupil to say the least, he got his first order at the age of sixteen and he was entrusted the mural decoration of the great theatre of Geneva.

Setting up in Lyons


He settled in Lyons around 1900, at n° 44 rue Raulin, but at twenty one years old, he had to provide for his needs and live in this brand new city for him. He got a job at Delaye et Hermelé, a  photo-chromo-engraving firm in Lyons where he retouched photographs.

Then he moved at Arnaud’s “and we remember the success of this firm the day when the whole range of the Bénédictine menus throughout the world were published thanks to Villon’s talent, who created and signed them”.

On October 31st 1914, he married Clotilde Muller in the 2nd district of Lyons. She was a young lady from Swezerland, widow of a former marriage who had earlier given him a daughter called Marthe, born on June 21st 1899 in Caluire et Cuire.

His studio


In his studio n° 50 rue de la République, in the heart of the “presqu’île”, he had up to about eighty students. Among them were Yvonne Récamier, Louis Rosa, Georges Combet, Anthelme Bergeron, Hubert Gaillard and his own daughter Marthe Chambard-Villon. There were many more, famous or unknown. This studio was opened from 1910 to 1920.

Exhibitions at the Fine Arts Society of Lyons (S. L. B. A.)

Villon exhibited for the first time at the SLBA show in 1898 and then each year till his death. He paid his subscription as an associate member from 1905 to 1951.

The exhibition of his works at the different shows didn’t prevent Villon from accepting his responsibilities. His good name and his talent were recognized.

From 1913 to 1945 he was a member of the jury.

In 1926 he entered the SLBA managing committee and he kept this job until his death.

From 1939 to 1944 he was vice – president. We have to point out that despite numerous solicitations, he always refused to be president of the show, in order to be free for his art and his students.

The engraver


Around 1927, Villon found his first job again, the engraving, a technique he employed at Hemerlé. He realized a great number of etchings, in addition to his paintings.

As an illustrator, he realised some engravings which were published in a 1933 edition of the famous book from Lyons “Calixte or introduction to life in Lyons” (Calixte ou introduction à la vie Lyonnaise).

Activities in Paris


Following the example of many artists from Lyons, and as something that must be accomplished in an artistic career, Villon left for Paris. He exhibited for the first time at the Grand Palais in 1907 for the French Artists Society show. Three years later, he became associate member of this society.

Villon was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in August 1937. This decoration was given to him by President Albert Lebrun. The critics praised his talent and J. Etievant wrote as early as 1914 “I don’t think that any artist could be at this point as close as he is from absolute mastery and perfection.”

Founder of the Lyons Society of Watercolour Painters


These human qualities earned Villon reliable and precious relations which he succeeded in protecting thanks to his sense of loyalty. Among the artists he frequently saw, some became allied to him and supported him for the creation of his main work : the founding with Antoine Barbier of the Society of Watercolour Painters from Lyons in 1934. On December 16th 1934, at the Pouillé-Lecoultre Gallery, the brand new society proudly presented its members’ works for the first time to the public from Lyons. It’s for the sake of this science of the drawing and the technical and emotional qualities required by watercolours that these two artists wanted to gather a group of painters only specialized in watercolours.

The end of a carreer


Villon died on November 7th 1951, in his house rue Terrasse, of an embolism due to cancer. His sudden death came at the height of his fame. He left behind his society and the tradition maintained by his daughter, Mrs Chambard Villon, heir of a regional technique and memory.