Young Girl at the Piano

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

Geography:
Made in France, Europe

Date:
1909

Medium:
Drypoint

Dimensions:
Plate: 15 13/16 x 11 7/8 inches (40.2 x 30.2 cm) Sheet: 21 3/4 x 14 11/16 inches (55.2 x 37.3 cm)

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

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
2001-9-1

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Gift of The Judith Rothschild Foundation, 2001

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Additional information:
  • PublicationJacques Villon and His Cubist Prints

    My passage from one form of art to another, from expressive drawing to analytical Cubism took place a little before 1910.1

    In his compositions of 1908-9 Villon began to eliminate detail and simplify forms, even as he continued to work almost exclusively in black and white, as he had since 1907. This large drypoint of 1909 carries simplification to an extreme, shifting radically from the elegant Belle Époque style of his two drypoints of the previous year, Jeune Femme au piano (Young Woman at the Piano)2 and Suzanne au piano (Suzanne at the Piano).3 In the present work Villon not only does away with the piano keyboard but also merely suggests the position of the girl's arms, omitting her hands entirely. It is only the title of the composition that reveals the subject. Villon's concentration upon a single monumental figure in Enfant au piano foreshadows the series of even larger drypoint portraits that he began in 1911 and continued through 1913. Yet even in his subsequent drypoints Villon would never again attempt the degree of simplification and suggestiveness or the obscure approach to the subject that occurs in the present composition.

    Villon had introduced his new, simplified style in 1907 in L'Aide gracieuse, a work for which he later acknowledged the influence of the Swedish artist Anders Zorn's manner of striking lines through the contours of forms.4 In Enfant au piano, lines are reduced in number but increased in density: slashing vertical strokes define both volume and shadow, as well as describe the mass and substance of the girl's long hair. In places the drypoint burr is so dense that it seems to float lightly on the white paper in single spots as well as in larger, more solid areas; ink is caught where broken lines end, cross, and turn along the edges of the figure.

    Villon made this print at the time he was living in Puteaux, a suburb of Paris, where he was in frequent contact with his brothers, Marcel Duchamp and Raymond Duchamp-Villon. He and Marcel often treated the same subjects, concentrating primarily upon members of the family circle. The interrelationship between the subjects and figures in their works at this time is especially complex, and the influences moved in both directions. The subject of a young woman at a piano appeared in an unpublished 1900 drawing by Marcel Duchamp of his sister Magdeleine,5 while Villon used it first in his two drypoints of 1908 and in this work of 1909. The next appearance of the subject in Duchamp's work occurred in his 1911 painting Sonata,6 where the upper part of the figure of Yvonne Duchamp at the piano appears to echo, in reverse, Villon's Enfant au piano, showing the girl with long hair flowing down her back, simple parallel lines for the arms, and an angular, V-shaped elbow.7 Innis Howe Shoemaker, from Jacques Villon and His Cubist Prints (2001), p. 6.

    1. Villon, in Peter A. Wick, Jacques Villon: Master of Graphic Art (1875-1963). exh. cat. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1964), p. 24 (hereafter, Wick, 1964).
    2. de Ginestet, Colette, and Catherine Pouillon. Jacques Villon: Les Estampes et les illustrations. Catalogue raisonné. Paris: Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1979, E 237.
    3. ibid. E 238.
    4. ibid. E 202. See Hancock, in Robbins, Daniel, ed. Jacques Villon. Exh. cat. Cambridge, Mass.: Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, 1976, p. 40.
    5. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1996-191-1.
    6. Anne d'Harnoncourt and Kynaston McShine, eds., Marcel Duchamp, exh. cat. (New York: The Museum of Modern Art and Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973). p. 252 fig. 57 (hereafter, Duchamp, 1973).
    7. While Martin, in Robbins, Daniel, ed. Jacques Villon. Exh. cat. Cambridge, Mass.: Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, 1976, p. 56, connects Duchamp's figure to Villon's 1908 Jeune Femme au piano (de Ginestet, Colette, and Catherine Pouillon. Jacques Villon: Les Estampes et les illustrations. Catalogue raisonné. Paris: Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1979, F 237), the treatment of the hair and the position of the arms, although reversed, are closer to those in Enfant au piano. In another example of the same period, Duchamp repeated the figure in Villon's 1909 drypoint Nu debout, bras en hut (Standing Nude, Arm in the Air) (de Ginestet, Colette, and Catherine Pouillon. Jacques Villon: Les Estampes et les illustrations. Catalogue raisonné. Paris: Arts et Métiers Graphiques, 1979, E 245), in his 1911 drawing Standing Nude (Duchamp, 1973, p. 251, fig. 53), which he used again in the same year in his painting Young Man and Girl in Spring (Robbins, Daniel, ed. Jacques Villon. Exh. cat. Cambridge, Mass.: Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, 1976, p. 47, fig. 23a).