Willy James


Willy James was born Willy Rochat in 1920 in Echallens (north of Lausanne) into a prominent Swiss family. He began to paint when he was eighteen, receiving lessons from the renowned Swiss painter, Rene Auberjonois, who advised and assisted him through these years and taught him the tricks of the trade. Willy James held his first exhibition in Lausanne in 1944, showing landscapes and his native Vaud. Later he would also exhibit his works at the famous gallery of Paul Vallotton.

He soon left for Paris, where he leased a studio in the Rue Jacob. In Paris, he met many of his contemporaries. These scenes are often identical with those favoured by Maurice Utrillo. It was a time when he became familiar with the city’s back streets, from Montmartre to Montparnassen, from Place du Tertre to the Notre Dame. This experience enabled him to create his own version of Paris in his paintings – to remake the city according to his personal vision of it, stripped entirely of modernism of any kind. His works are reminiscent of the works of the famous painter Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887-1976). It is the figures in the streets and on the squares that give these works an extra dimension. All the individuals depicted are focused on their own worlds, they are sketch-like silhouettes seen from a considerable distance: archetypes almost of crowd scenes. They are always on the way to somewhere, going to or from home, to or from work. It is this aspect of the man in the street that makes Willy James what he is.

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