Jacques Villon was born Gaston Duchamp on July 31, 1875, in Damville, France. He began his artistic training under his grandfather, Emile Nicolle, who taught him engraving. In 1894 he began to study law at the University of Paris. During the summer of that year, he entered the École des Beaux-Arts in Rouen, and shortly thereafter started to send his drawings to local illustrated newspapers. After securing his father’s permission to study art, on the condition that he continue his law studies, he returned to Paris where he attended the Atelier Cormon. He adopted the name Jacques Villon in 1895.
For almost ten years the artist worked largely in graphic media, contributing drawings to Parisian illustrated papers and making color prints and posters. In 1903 he helped organize the drawing section of the first Salon d’Automne. In 1904-05 he studied at the Académie Julian in Paris, painting in a Neo-Impressionist style. Villon’s first gallery exhibition, shared with his brother Raymond Duchamp-Villon, took place at Galerie Legrip, Rouen, in 1905. He began to spend more time painting in around 1906-07 and from 1910 devoted himself primarily to it. In 1906 he settled in Puteaux. There, in 1911, he and Duchamp-Villon started to meet with the Puteaux group, which included their brother, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Delaunay, Albert Gleizes, František Kupka, Fernard Léger and others. That same year Villon named and helped found the Section d’Or.
In 1913 He exhibited with great success at the New York Armory Show. Villon’s first solo show in the United States was held at the Société Anonyme, New York, in 1921. By the 1930s he was better-known in the United States than in Europe. In 1932, he joined the Abstraction-Création group and exhibited with them. An important exhibition of Villon’s work was held in Paris in 1944 at the Galerie Louis Carré, from that time his only dealer. Villon received honors at a number of international exhibitions, including First Prize at the Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, in 1950, and the Grand Prize for Painting at the Venice Biennale in 1956. He designed stained-glass windows for Metz Cathedral in 1955. Villon died on June 9, 1963, in Puteaux.