Picasso with revolver and hat of Gary Cooper
© André Villers courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery
Silver gelatin print
“And I started playing with his work. I “puzzle-cut” it, placed the pieces on a clean sheet and the results made Picasso take on a serious air: “I see that you have understood me”.
It is widely held that Cubism has always been confined to the mediums of painting, drawing and even sculpture. However, almost 50 years after the inception of Cubism, Pablo Picasso revisited the genre in collaboration with photographer André Villers: together they created the Cubist genre in photography.
The chance meeting between Andre Villers and Pablo Picasso happened in a Vallauris street in 1953 when Villers stopped the artist to take his photograph. This moment was the beginning of a great friendship. A friendship not only responsible for creating a complete fusion of photography and painting, but the legacy of which is an entire project documenting the life, work and studio of Pablo Picasso. The Michael Hoppen Gallery held the first solo UK exhibition in April 2006 of the work of Andre Villers, to coincide with his 75th birthday. The exhibition included work from the full of this period; Peintures dans l’Atelier’, unique collages and Decoupages.
In the same year as their first meeting Villers began to visit Picasso regularly at his studio on Chemin du Fournas, Vallauris. It was here that the two artists began to experiment with printing techniques including solarizations, and paper abstraction. The resulting works, Decoupages, involve cut-outs by Picasso; figurative faces, animals and forms alongside simplified masks and wild beasts, all reminiscent of the subjects of his paintings. These cut-outs were over exposed on bromide paper and then photographed by Villers. At the time of the birth of Cubism, around 1905, photography was just being invented but by the 1950’s the medium was steadily becoming recognised as an art form in it’s own right. Picasso’s experimentation with Villers confirmed photography’s new status, and together the two artists created a Cubist genre through the photographic medium. In the resulting unique decoupages the cut-outs are given depth of field, shadow and dimensions - combining the characteristics of Cubist painting and photography. Just like Deakin and Bacon, Dali and Halsman, this fantastic collaboration between the two artists made them able to synthesize different mediums and transcend previously defined genres.
Born in 1930 in Beaucourt, France, Villers was hospitalised at the age of 17, and bedridden for five years. He was loaned an ancient camera as part of the therapy to make him walk again, and his fate was reborn when after he took his first photographs of Picasso. Villers has held solo exhibitions all over Europe and many of his prints are held in the permanent collections of the Picasso Museum in Paris, Barcelona, Vallauris and Antibes. He has worked on collaborations with writer Jacques Prevert, and photographer David Douglas Duncan.