Jacques Villeglé 1926 PDF Print E-mail

Jacques Villeglé (Jacques Mahé de la Villeglé) born 1926



1926 – Born in Quimper, Finisrère (Britanny) 6th of 9 children in impoverished aristocratic family (his father works as

            teller at the banque de France.) A family with rigorous Catholic values.

1943 – Fails baccalaureate examination after studies in Jesuit college. Discovers  modern art through Maurice Raynal’s

            anthology. Impressed by a reproduction of Miro’s Amour. Works as draftsman for academic architect.

1944 – First visit to still occupied Paris. In September registers at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Rennes.

1945 – Meets and befriends fellow Breton and aspiring artist Raymond Hains who will leave for Paris to work in

photography department of the magazine France-Illustration. Villeglé discovers Surrealist “psychic automatism” by reading Bernard Dorival’s history of contemporary French Art and experimental typography through Léger’s designs for Cendrars book.

1947 – In Nantes exploring busy port city with Hains. Struck by excitement and animation of port realizes that the artist

  should directly appropriate the world rather than transform it through art. Studies at Nantes school of fine arts (until  

  1949). In Paris the 2 friends discover Artaud’s plays, the Lettrist movement in literature of Isidore Isou, and meet the  

  founder of Surrealism André Breton. Villeglé shows him his photos. In St Malo Villeglé collects some

  bent wire in ruins of the port which he uses to make his first art piece, a found object sculpture. Hains takes his first  

  photos of torn street posters. The two meet Colette Allendy  Paris art dealer with gallery in Auteuil. Villeglé

  experiments with abstract painting.

1948 – First Hains exhibition of photos at Allendy gallery. Hains meets Surrealist Nantes painter and poet Camille Bryen.

Two friends absorb Bryen’s Dada spirit. Hains invents new movie camera with fluted lenses the hypnagoscope

that deforms anything filmed. Villeglé decides to limit his artistic experiments to only working with posters torn off billboards and walls, though he will only do this occasionally until 1957. He collects these and mounts them on

canvas as he found them though later he will re-arrange or add to original tears fro greater visual impact.

The resulting décollages will always be tled after the street in which they were originally found.

1950 -  Villeglé moves to Paris plunging himself in cultural and artistic scene. Frequents Lettrist recitals. In the Spring

moves ton Nancy where he works in studio of architect Jean Prouvé. In Britanny in the summer he turns first

abstract film with Hains’ new camera. Experiments with transposition of fragmented letters, the ultra-lettre.

1953 – In Paris the two friends meet the new Lettrist group in rebellion against the founder Isou (Debord, Wolman, Brau,


1954 – They meet and befriend François Dufrêne (1930-1982) at the Dôme in Montparnasse where Dufrêne sells his

   radical paper Soulevement de la Jeunesse. Villeglé discovers the German Dada artist Kurt Schwitters at Berggruen

  gallery. The Schwitters collages will encourage him in pursuing his experiments with torn posters. Introduced to

  Yves Klein by Dufrêne.

1956 – Maries Marie-Françoise de Faultrier. Hired as clerk in Ministry of Public Works.

1957 – Art critic Pierre Restany sees his torn posters at Dufrêne’s. Opening of first Hains and Villeglé exhibition of

  torn posters at Allendy gallery titled Loi du 29 juillet 1881. They meet artist Gerard Deschamps.

1958 – Meets César.

1959 – Dufrêne organizes exhibition of 45 torn posters by Villeglé in his father’s apartment on rue Vercingétorix.

           Villeglé invents his new artistic persona, Laceré Annonyme, insisting on anonymous and collective nature of the

art works made of posters torn by passing strangers in the streets. Participates with Hains, Klein, Tinguely in

first Paris Biennale at national museum of modern art. The new artists’ works shock public and press. They are

the first public rebellion against the primacy of abstract gestural painting, the dominant art trend of the 1950’s.

1960 – the Museum of modern art founds a new salon, Comparaisons, where the new artists will show. Restany publishes

   in Milan his text on the Nouveaux Réalistes which will become the label under which the new artists will hence

   be known. Their first collective exhibition with the addition of Arman will open in May at the galleria Apolilinaire

   in Milan directed by Restany’s friend Guido Le Noci. The group is officially founded at Klein’s apartment on rue   

   Campagne Première in Paris where all members sign a common manifesto written by Restany on 27 October.

   César, Spoerri, Mimo Rotella and Niki de Saitn-Phalle also join the group.

1961 – Villeglé succeeds Dufrêne as organizer of Comparaisons salon. The Nouveaux Réalistes but also the lettrists and

the American Pop artists will be frequently shown there through the 1960’s. Restany organises exhibition “40 degrees above Dada” at galerie J (Jeanne Bucher). The title will cause serious theoretical disputes among artists.

Villeglé presents his political posters under the title “La France Déchirée” in same gallery.

1962 – Klein dies unexpectedly of heart attack. The 4 poster artists Villeglé, Hains, Dufrêne and Rotella are shown at

Apollinaire gallery in Milan. Villeglé also sparticipates in famous MoMA show in New York, “The Art of Assemblage.”

1963 – Villeglé moves to new bureaucratic job at the Préfecture de Paris. First solo show at galerie J.

1964 – 10th anniversary of salon Comparaisons with major retrospective of all latest trends. Robert Rauchenberg wins

   prize at Venice Biennale that year. New Realists shown in the Hague museum of modern art. Poster

   artists participate in major historical collage show at Saint-Etienne museum of art and industry.

   Villeglé has solo show in Antwerp gallery.

1966 – Villeglé in major Dada show (1916-1966)  at Galleria Schwarz in Milan.

1968 – Iolas gallery in Paris organizes major Nouveaux Réalistes show where Restany dedicates his new book on the

movement. For his last year as director at Comparaisons  Villeglé presents a “Hippie” room. During the May events he participates in “closing” of museum of modern art declared a useless public institution (“inutilité publique”.)

1969 – Villeglé invents his “alphabet of socio-political signs” inspired by graffiti signs and slogans on Paris walls during

            president Nixon’s visit to France. French president Pompidou buys a Villeglé work.

1970 – “Nouveux Réalisme 1960-1970” show organized by Restany at Mathias Fels gallery. The Fonds national d’art

           contemporain buys a Villeglé work for the first time.

1971 – Participates in major torn-poster exhibition at Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart. First retrospective of his work at

            Moderna Museet in Stockholm organized by Pontus Hulten.

1972 – Shows as one of 72 artists at Grand Palais in “72/72 12 years of contemporary art in France 1960-1972.”

1974 -  Villeglé, défense d’afficher” at new Beaubourg gallery run by Paul Nahon. Beginning of a difficult period for

            artist, who will later call it his “traversée du desert.”

1980 – Retrospective exhibition (1949-1979) at Beaubourg gallery.

1982 – “The presidential elections seen by Villeglé” at JJ Donguy gallery, Paris.

1986 – Villeglé retires from his office job, will be able to devote all his time to his art. Major exhibition at gallery

            Convergences in Nantes and big Nouveaux Réalistes show at municipal museum of modern art in Paris.

1987 – Solo shows in Germany.

1988 – New laws limit the posting of advertising posters in Paris forcing Villeglé to move further out to the suburbs

and eventually to the provinces to find material. Villeglé, Hains, Rotella, Dufrêne shown along with Dietman, Kaprow and Rauchenberg at Zabriskie gallery in Paris. Exhibition of very large- formats at Magasin in Grenoble.

1992 – Art market crisis.

1996 – Founding of Atelier d’Aquitaine with collector friends the di Folcos to help him find posters for his work in the south

           west by driving around small towns in a van with assistants.

1999 – First show at Valois gallery in Paris, his new dealers.

2005 – Much affected by death of his old friend Raymond Hains. Major show in Metz Arsenal.

2007 – Major Nouveaux Réalistes exhibition at Grand Palais in Paris.


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