Willy Eisenschitz

1889 1974
(Autriche) 1889 /   (France) 1974

Willy Eisenschitz’s father, who had liberal views, encouraged his son to pursue his vocation. He quickly left the School of Fine Arts in Vienna and went to work in Paris. He stayed with his uncle, Otto Eisenschitz, who was an art collector and Henri Bergson’s brother-in- law. In 1912, he enrolled in the Grande Chaumière Academy where he met young artist Claire Bertrand. They got married in 1914. While the painter’s debuts took place in Central Europe, it was Paris, the Canal Saint-Martin and the Provence region that inspired his work. He was first and foremost a landscape painter. His work was only slightly influenced by the revolutionary pictorial movements in Paris. However, the geometric shapes depicted in his paintings are reminiscent of the post-war cubist movement.

In 1914, Eisenschitz left for Vienna and spent much of the war in a camp for civilian interned prisoners. His wife joined him there, where she later gave birth to two children. For health reasons, in 1917, Eisenschitz settled in Lucerne. He exhibited in Lucerne and in Zurich. In 1920, the couple returned to Paris, travelled to the Provence region in 1921, and to Florence and Assisi in 1922.

Eisenschitz went to live in the mountains because of a health problem. He settled in Mollans and then in Dieulefit in the Drome region. In 1926, after his personal exhibition took place at the Joseph Billiet gallery, the state purchased one of his paintings for the first time. In 1927, Eisenschitz moved to La Valette-du- Var, near Toulon, in the former couvent des Minimes with his family. In 1929, he travelled to Spain and to the Balearic Islands. In 1931, while he suffered from shoulder arthritis, which prevented him from using his right arm, he produced watercolors that were exhibited with success in 1932 at the Billiet-Worms gallery. In 1935, Eisenschitz acquired French nationality. He continued to travel to Spain and illustrated three books by Jean Giono: Les Vraies Richesses, Mort du blé, Entrée du printemps. 

During World War II, Eisenschitz went back to Dieulefit where numerous other intellectuals had taken refuge. His son David joined the Resistance, but was arrested and deported in 1944. Following the war, Eisenschitz spent his time between trips and exhibitions in Paris, Toulon and Marseilles. The places where he lived or where he travelled to consistently inspired him. One year before he died, a retrospective took place at the Maison de la Culture (house of culture) in Amiens.