Young Girl

Jacques Villon (Gaston Duchamp), French, 1875 - 1963

Geography:
Made in France, Europe

Date:
1912

Medium:
Oil on canvas

Dimensions:
57 9/16 x 45 inches (146.2 x 114.3 cm) Framed: 60 x 47 1/4 x 1 3/4 inches (152.4 x 120 x 4.4 cm)

Copyright:
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Curatorial Department:
Modern Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1950-134-190

Credit Line:
The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950

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Label:
Gaston Duchamp, the elder brother of Marcel Duchamp, marked his decision to become an artist by changing his name to Jacques Villon after the medieval French poet François Villon. After devoting his early career to producing prints and caricatures for newspapers and illustrated journals, Villon discovered Cubism around 1910 and spent the rest of his life exploring its spatial complexities. Young Girl is a portrait of the artist's twenty-three-year-old sister Yvonne, seated in an armchair. The composition is constructed out of small, volumetric pyramids whose rich colors illuminate the canvas with a crystalline light, a technique that Villon evolved from a description in Leonardo da Vinci's Treatise on Painting.

Additional information:
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    The Duchamp household into which Jacques Villon was born in 1875 produced more than its fair share of creative talent, with four of the seven children destined for careers in the visual arts. Gaston Duchamp marked his decision to become an artist by changing his name to Jack (later Jacques) Villon, after the medieval French poet François Villon. He was the eldest of the four artists, who also included his brothers Raymond and Marcel and a sister Suzanne. Villon devoted the first fifteen years of his career to graphic work, producing prints and caricatures for weekly newspapers and illustrated journals. Around 1910 he became attracted to the intellectual possibilities of Cubist painting; his musical concept of color construction, however, distinguishes his early paintings from the somber canvases of Braque and Picasso. Villon described himself as the Impressionist of Cubism, and his best paintings from this period create a unity of form, color, and composition through light and lyricism.

    Painted in the same year that Villon helped to organize the "Section d'Or" (Golden Section) exhibition at the Galerie La Boétie in Paris, Young Girl is a portrait of the artist's younger sister Yvonne, then twenty-three years old, seated in an armchair. The systematic geometry of the picture relates directly to the artist's efforts to base the language of Cubist painting on mathematical proportion corresponding to the Golden Section, in which the ratio of the smaller part to the larger is the same as the ratio of the larger part to the whole. The entire composition is constructed out of small, volumetric pyramids, a technique that Villon evolved from a description in Leonardo da Vinci's Treatise on Painting, which had only recently been translated into French. The rounded forms of the sitter, her facial features and dainty feet, emerge from within the dense network of triangles. The superimposed planes of rich colors illuminate the canvas with a crystalline light. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 29.