Willy Ronis | Le Nu Provençal

The Telegraph says he was more artistic than Doisneau and less patrician than Cartier-Bresson; like those masters to whom he is frequently compared, Willy Ronis embodied the Golden Age of photography, where photojournalists composed lyrical odes to world-changing events and banal everyday lives alike.

Ronis was best known for a nude of his wife, Marie-Anne Lansiaux, bending over a sink in a rustic bathroom. The photo was almost like a Bonnard painting and reflected that easy rustic feel of country life. Ronis remembered:

We had a little stone cottage at Gordes. It was a hot summer, and I was repairing the attic. I needed a trowel, so I came down and there was Marie-Anne standing naked on the stone flags, washing herself from the tin basin. ‘Don’t move,’ I said and, my hands full of plaster, I grabbed my Rolleiflex and took four shots. It was the second shot which I chose.

It took two minutes in all. Miracles exist, I experienced it. I have never been so anxious as when I developed that film. I felt that, if the image was good, technically and aesthetically, it would be a major moment in my life, a prosaic moment of extraordinary poetry.”

He met the jewel painter, Marie-Anne,when both of them fled to Provence after the German Occupation of France in 1940. They were married after the war, when he also joined the French Communists at the urging of Marie-Anne, who was more militantly political.

Soon afterwards, they bought the above cottage in a Provençal town known for its artist communes. Willy divided his career between the countryside and the capital, gradually becoming a world-renowned photographer. The couple lived in that small cottage until Marie-Anne’s death in 1991, by which time Ronis’s career had come a full circle: in his last major work, he photographed Marie-Anne, now with Alzheimer’s, sitting alone in a park surrounded by autumn trees in a touching collection of photographs chronicled her gradual decline and increasing isolation.

Ronis died in 2009.

18 thoughts on “Willy Ronis | Le Nu Provençal

  1. i always love seeing those contact sheets whilst wondering what thoughts were thought during the selection process. how there’s her face in two of the pictures. what a difference her posture makes. the way her shadow interacts with the light. side by side, or blocking it. how the one Ronis selected is the least sexy but the one capturing a somewhat surreal moment.
    thanks for posting this and thanks for this excellent blog.

  2. Does anyone know how to get copies of the photos of his wife standing at the sink instead of
    leaning over it?
    Thank You,

  3. I am looking for that picture in a format less than a meter or as .jpg in a quality high enough to print it and stick tot he wall. Can you help me?

  4. I absolutely love this print. I always tell my friends and colleagues – tthey should proudly shoot and display images of their significant others/ wives, just like this print, they can also imortalize their loved ones for generations to come as a “artistic work of art?

  5. I was reading this another Master piece by Michael Ondaatje, “English Patient”. I was intrigued by the cover page as ‘Le Nu Provençal” and I googled to know another Master Willy Ronis. Hats off….

  6. In regard to this blog post, I submit that Ronis’s “origin story” is completely false. In fact, the image is based on a drawing by Mary Cassatt (see http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/finepr/item/2002718955/ ). The similarities between the drawing and the photo cannot possibly be coincidental. Ronis’s appropriation of the Cassatt drawing, without attribution, is, indeed, an act of photographic plagiarism.

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