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The Cover
May 6, 1998


JAMA. 1998;279(17):1330. doi:10.1001/jama.279.17.1330

It was his younger brother, Marcel Duchamp, who got the fame (more properly the notoriety) but it was Jacques Villon (1875-1963) who has endured. Self-effacing, modest, and unassuming, Villon worked with a quiet dedication that has made him the "painter's painter." By patience, long observation, and constant experimentation, he advanced modern art beyond the purely Impressionist and Cubist forms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to a new concept of space and the figure's relation to it. Reproductions do even less justice to his work than to that of most other painters, but some idea, at least, can be gleaned from careful study. Barring direct experience of a Villon work, seeing one "in the flesh," so to speak, the most helpful description, perhaps, is that of art historian and critic George Heard Hamilton: They are "prismatic geometry," surfaces where color, form, and light are one. Not one can be separated from another any more than roundness can be separated from a circle. Villon's own styling of himself as the "Cubist of Impressionism" is also apt: he disciplined the sparkling surface color of the Impressionists into a hierarchy of shapes, related each to the other and to the whole, and at the same time he transformed the planar relationships of Cubism to linear relationships, giving yet another view of space.

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