Jacques Villon (French, 1875 - 1963)
French painter, printmaker and illustrator. The oldest of three brothers who became major 20th-century artists, including Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Marcel Duchamp, he learnt engraving at the age of 16 from his maternal grandfather, Emile-Frédéric Nicolle (1830-94), a ship-broker who was also a much appreciated amateur artist. In January 1894, having completed his studies at the Lycée Corneille in Rouen, he was sent to study at the Faculty of Law of the University of Paris, but within a year he was devoting most of his time to art, already contributing lithographs to Parisian illustrated newspapers such as Assiette au beurre. At this time he chose his pseudonym: Jack (subsequently Jacques) in homage to Alphonse Daudet’s novel Jack (1876) and Villon in appreciation of the 15th-century French poet François Villon; soon afterwards this new surname was combined with the family name by Raymond. Marcel Duchamp and their sister Suzanne Duchamp (1889-1963), also a painter, retained the original name. Villon’s work as a humorous illustrator dominated the first ten years of his career, but from 1899 he also began to make serious prints, exhibiting some for the first time in 1901 at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. By 1903 he had sufficient reputation in Paris to be an organizer of the first Salon d’Automne. He consciously began to expand his media in 1904, studying painting at the Académie Julian and working in a Neo-Impressionist manner. His printmaking style, formerly influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec, moved towards the fashionable elegance of Paul César Helleu.