In his early career, Villon specialized in creating large color etchings of well-to-do women and children. But revolutionary theories of composition were shaking the intellectual underpinnings of art during the first decade of the twentieth century. Between 1909 and 1911, exposure to these new ways of thinking caused Villon to drop the conventions of realism and embrace abstraction. If not for the anchoring gaze of the sitter, the figure in this print would dissolve into an unrecognizable series of lines, arcs, and angles. Villon’s aggressive drawing style adds to the sense of dynamism. He used firm, fast strokes to incise the etching plate with lines that nearly verge out of control. Their boldness reveals the sensibilities of a daring printmaker who truly understood his medium. This drypoint dates to the high point of the cubist era, a period in which very few prints were made.
From Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015)
Artist Jacques Villon, French, 1875-1963
  • Portrait d'acteur
Date 1913
Medium drypoint printed in black ink on cream laid paper
Dimensions Plate: 15 3/4 × 12 3/8 inches (40 × 31.4 cm)
Sheet: 19 3/8 × 14 1/4 inches (49.2 × 36.2 cm)
Credit Line Museum Purchase with funds from Graphic Arts Council Purchase Fund
Accession Number 2005.24
Department Prints, Drawings & Photographs
Not On View
Signed Signed, in plate, lower right: Jacques Villon
Signed, in pencil, lower right: Jacques Villon
Marks Watermark, lower left: "RIVES"
Watermark, lower right: "Eug. Delatre"
Inscriptions Inscribed, in pencil, lower left: 25(?)/32
2005-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)