Willy Eisenschitz (Vienna 1889 - 1974 Paris)


Willy Eisenschitz is born in 1889 as a son of a Jewish lawyer. In 1911 he studies art at the Academy of Art in Vienna. He is soon fascinated by the French modernist movements of that time. As he has an uncle who lives in Paris, he is fortunate to move to Paris and continues his art studies at the "Academie de la Grande Chaumière". At the Academy in Paris he falls in love with a fellow student, Claire Bertrand, and they marry shortly before the outbreak of World War I. At the beginnning of the war, Eisenschitz decides to move back to Austria, but is arrested and put in an internmentcamp close to Angers in France. His wife Claire Bertrand follows him and in 1915 and 1916 their two children, Evelyn and David, are born in the camp. After the end of the war, the family decides to move to Switzerland, as Eisenschitz suffers from severe tuberculosis. They move to Lucerne and due to the change of climate they hope for a cure for Eisenschitz´ tuberculosis. A few paintings still exist from that time, different in style and subject than his later style back in France. In 1920, the family moves back to Paris.

1921 will be the crucial turning point for his life as an artist. On a vacation in the South of France, Eisenschitz discovers the different quality of light, colours and atmosphere. Eisenschitz is so deeply impressed that he decides to move to the South. In 1923 and 1924 his tuberculosis causes him difficulties again and he decides to move to the mountain resort of Dieulefit, north of Avignon and Orange, well known for its good air. When the two children of Claire and Willy are close to school age, they decide to move back from the countryside. They choose the little village La Valette-du-Var, on the outskirts of Toulon. They are lucky to find an old convent, le "Château des Minimes", belonging to a French family who rents out part of their chateau-like site. Both Claire and Willy have their ateliers and can profit from the beautiful garden around the chateau. Eisenschitz becomes member of the Société nationale des beaux-arts, and in 1928 he takes part for the first time in the Salon d´Automne in Paris.

Although Eisenschitz even receives French citizenship in 1935, his contact to the Austrian art scene continues. In 1933 he exhibits in the Viennese secession, and in Paris he keeps close contacts with Austrian Emigrant artists such as Joseph Floch, Viktor Tischler, Georg Merkel and Walter Bondy. His open character and charming manner as well as the quality of his artwork makes it easy for him to integrate into the local arts scene in Provence as well as in Paris, where they keep the appartment of Claire´s family in the St. Sulpice district. 

In 1931, Eisenschitz is forced to change temporarily from oil colours to watercolours because of arthritis in his shoulders. He starts to paint with his left arm and enjoys the lighter texture of aquarells during a certain time. During his entire life, Eisenschitz continues the tecnique of watercolours, he disovers in the thirties and produces a big oeuvre of works on paper. In 1937 Eisenschitz takes part in the world fair in Paris, being honoured with the Golden Medal for a painting.  In the thirties he exhibits world wide. International collectors start to buy his works directly in his atelier and help him with contacts. He holds exhibitions in the United States, South America, England and throughout France, exhibiting in renouned Parisian art galleries. In 1938 his sucess comes to a temporary end. Eisenschitz, who lives at that time in La Valette-du-Var faces problems because of his Jewish origin and name. In 1942, the family decides to move back to the countryside to Dieulefit. Due to its isolated mountainous location Dieulefit has become in the meantime a refugee for other Jewish artists. The Eisenschitz family lives a very hidden, secret life in this village, and Eisenschitz changes his names to "Villiers" adopting this new signature until the end of World War II. His son David plays a role in the Résistance and is killed; his fate remains unknown to his family for a long time.

In 1949, Eisenschitz has his first important exhibiton after the war with the title "A family of artists" in the gallery Allard in Paris.  For the first time, Eisenschitz, Claire Bertrand and their daughter Evelyn Marc, who has also become a painter, exhibit together. In the following years Eisenschitz regains the success he was enjoying before the war. He exhibits in numerous galleries and takes part in competitions and art salons. The fifities and sixties are a time of enormous productivity and success and his paintings are sold for high prices in well-known galleries throughout France. In 1952, Eisenschitz discovers the still unspoiled and rural island of Ibiza and spends henceafter every year a certain time in Ibiza together with his wife. Paintings rich in colour, light and strength are made during that time. In 1957 the Museum of Toulon organises a big one man show of Eisenschitz, which turns out to be a big success. In 1959 a scolarship gives him the opportunity to disover for the first time a part of Africa, Sudan and Mali, and a new series of paintings are made after that journey.

In 1969, Claire Bertrand dies and Eisenschitz moves from his beloved Provence to Paris, to the Rue de Tournon, where they had kept Claire Bertrand´s appartment. Throughout all this time spent in Paris, many paintings in Paris are inspired by the Church St. Sulpice seen from his atelier and the 7th arrondissement as well as the special atmosphere around the canals St. Martin and St. Denis. In his years before his death, Eisenschitz spends much time in the area close to Marseille, where the white stone as well as the islands of Les Goudes motivate him to paint an important number of paintings. Eisenschitz stays artistically active until his death. In 1974 he dies at the age of 85 in Paris.

Widder Fine Arts


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