12 Sep André Villers: the portrait painter the twentieth century
“All my pictures have never been commissioned: born from the need to meet the character.”
They called him “André le Magnifique“, or the “Geppetto Mougins” for that aspect perpetually disheveled and youth; known to history as the “photographer of Pablo Picasso“, André Villers immortalized the leading figures of European culture the twentieth century.
Born in France in 1930, in the small town of Beaucourt, at the age of seventeen he was struck by a severe bone disease. The doctors sent him to cure in the sun of the French Riviera, in the sanatorium of Vallauris. So it was that, as a joke, began to take its first pictures: an entertainment that became the fate of a lifetime.
At that time in Vallauris, Provencal village famous for its pottery since Roman times, a brilliant artist and bizarre were dedicated to the production of his works. The young Villers knew nothing of painting, least of Pablo Picasso, who had renamed the country “of Vallauris crazy”. And this greatly pleased the Spanish master who hated preachers of all forms of stardom.
“In March 1953, in Valluris, I met Picasso for the event. I pointed it a potter at the time … I did not imagine that I would have photographed. ”
Picasso received the boy under his wing, gave him a Rolleiflex and began, in this way, a relationship of intense friendship that ended in 1973, the year of death of the Spanish artist.
“A few days later I had a Rolleiflex brand new, with a goal Xenar pecking so terrific. When Picasso saw me show off my camera exclaimed: Now you’re a real photographer. ”
From this perfect marriage of art and intent began life as a series of memorable portraits of Pablo Picasso in attitudes playful and fun: the bullfighter’s hat, dress Popeye, or with the gun had given Gary Cooper.
At this first prestigious association followed several other collaborations, in particular with Prévert, Cocteau, César, Doisneau, also taken from the room of Villers along with a large group of other leading figures of the twentieth century: from Guttuso to Fellini, from Dali to Le Corbusier, from Chagall to Miro, to name a few. In his shots he was not content to reproduce reality, but always tried to reveal the unspoken, the secret that lies beyond the folds of a face or of a posture: sophisticated psychological interpretations that constitute a unique and original creation.
All portraits of Villers are characterized by great emotional empathy: not a cold exposure of faces, but a friendly talk with the parties represented.
“Relationships with people are more important than images. Thanks to my car I could spend unforgettable moments with poets, painters, filmmakers. And ‘This is irreplaceable. “
Experimenter of techniques and materials, Villers devoted himself to numerous fotoelaborazioni looking, as taught Man Ray, “not re never the same thing twice.” Solarizzando, sprinkling the film peas and spices, using the decoupage, he penetrated the many aspects of the photographic image showing, in its creation, an extraordinary inventiveness.
“Picasso was the detonator, if I may say so. What interests me is to change the faces and things so that my gaze intervene more on the matter. Cutting the negatives, spit on and pitch them in the enlarger sprinkling of sugar or salt, depending on the day, according to the mood. “
André Villers held a dialogue with the world of art, literature and music, making it a real reason for living because, as he said Léo Ferré, “a photo of Villers remains on the table as proof of life.”