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Jacques Villon was born Gaston Duchamp on July 31, 1875, in Damville, Normandy. He began his artistic training under his grandfather, Emile Nicolle, who taught him engraving. In 1894 be began to study law at the University of Paris; that same summer be entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Rouen and shortly thereafter started to send his drawings to local illustrated newspapers. After securing his father’s reluctant permission to study art on the condition that be 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 about 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, Kupka, Picabia, Gleizes, Robert Delaunay, Léger and others. That same year Villon named and helped found the Section d’Or.
He exhibited fine paintings at the 1913 New York Armory Show and sold them all. Villon’s first one-man show in America was held at the Société Anonyme, New York, in 1921 by the thirties 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 exclusive representative. Villon received honors at a number of international exhibitions, including First Prize, Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, 1950, and Grand Prize for Painting, Venice Biennale, 1956. He designed stained-glass windows for the cathedral at Metz in 1955. Villon died on June 9, 1963, in Puteaux.