Adolphe Leon Willette Biography

Willette was one of the grand old men of the color lithographic revolution of the 1880's and 1890's. Since the days on Montmartre with Steinlen and Toulouse-Lautrec, Willette had made himself famous with his rich, exuberant, and rather impish cartoons, prints and posters. When Willette saw the mobilization poster in early August of 1914, he was in Normandy on vacation. He drew his first anti-German cartoon on toilet paper, the only type of paper he could find at the time! He became one of the most effective weapons the French had in their propaganda campaign against Germany.

Willette's finest art was most often linked with the legendary figures of Pierrot and Pierrette.

"Willette (was) a successful painter who in 1887 switched to drawing, lithography and poster design. He became a frequent contributor to satirical publications such as 'Le Rire' …"(Rennert, PAI-XXXII, 562)

One of France's most remarkable artists of the legendary Art Nouveau era, Adolphe Leon Willette studied art under Cabanel at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He first exhibited his art at the Paris Salon in 1881 and became a regular contributor to major French exhibitions from 1887 onwards. During the 1890's, Willette achieved great fame as a versatile lithographer, painter, illustrator, poster artist and caricaturist. He also emerged as a major writer and editor in the Leftist press. In 1906, Willette achieved the highest honour for a French artist when he was appointed Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur.

As an original lithographic artist, Willette was a master of both social satire and character study. He was, in fact, commissioned by the prestigious L'Estampe Originale to submit lithographs in 1893, 1894 and 1895, along with such other artists as Whistler, Renoir, Redon, Toulouse-Lautrec and Pissarro. Pierrot Pendu was Willette's contribution for 1894. During the Art Nouveau decade (1890-1900) Willette was one of the most frequently sought after artists by Paris publishers for his lithographic posters and prints.