Willy Ronis

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Willy Ronis
Willy Ronis.jpg
Born (1910-08-14)August 14, 1910
Paris, France
Died September 12, 2009(2009-09-12) (aged 99)
Paris, France
Occupation Photographer

Willy Ronis (French: [wili ʁɔnis]; August 14, 1910 – September 12, 2009[1]) was a French photographer. His best-known work shows life in post-war Paris and Provence.

Early life[edit]

Ronis was born in Paris; his father was a Jewish refugee from Odessa, and his mother was a refugee from Lithuania, both escaped from the pogroms. His father opened a photography studio in Montmartre, and his mother gave piano lessons.[2] The boy's early interest was music and he hoped to become a composer. Returning from compulsory military service in 1932, his violin studies were put on hold because his father's cancer required Ronis to take over the family portrait business; Ronis' passion for music has been observed in his photographs.[3] His father died in 1936, whereupon the business collapsed and Ronis went freelance, his first photographs being published in Regards.[4] In 1937 he met David Seymour and Robert Capa, and did his first work for Plaisir de France; in 1938–39 he reported on a strike at Citroën and traveled in the Balkans.[4] With Cartier-Bresson, Ronis belonged to Association des Écrivains et Artistes Révolutionnaires, and remained a man of the left.[3]


The work of photographers, Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams inspired Ronis to begin exploring photography.[5] After his father's death, in 1936, Ronis closed the studio and joined the photo agency Rapho, with Brassaï, Robert Doisneau and Ergy Landau.[5]

Ronis became the first French photographer to work for Life.[5] In 1953, Edward Steichen included Ronis, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Izis, and Brassaï in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art titled Five French Photographers.[4] In 1955, Ronis was included in the Family of Man exhibition. The Venice Biennale awarded him its Gold Medal in 1957.[4] Ronis began teaching in the 1950s, and taught at the School of Fine Arts in Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Saint Charles, Marseilles. In 1979 he was awarded the Grand Prix des Arts et Lettres for Photography by the Minister for Culture.[4] Ronis won the Prix Nadar in 1981 for his photobook, Sur le fil du hasard.[4]


Ronis' wife, the Communist militant painter Marie-Anne Lansiaux (1910–91),[3] was the subject of his well-known 1949 photograph, Nu provençal (Provençal nude). The photograph, taken in a house that Marie-Anne and he had just bought in Gordes,[6] showed Marie-Anne washing at a basin with a water pitcher on the floor and an open window through which the viewer can see a garden, this is noted for its ability to convey an easy feeling of Provençal life. The photograph was a "huge success";[3] Ronis would comment, "The destiny of this image, published constantly around the world, still astonishes me."[6] Ronis lived in Provence from the 1960s to the 1980s.[3]

Late in her life, Ronis photographed Marie-Anne suffering from Alzheimer's disease, sitting alone in a park surrounded by autumn trees.[7]

Late in life[edit]

Ronis' nudes and fashion work (for Vogue and Le Jardin des modes) show his appreciation for natural beauty;[3] meanwhile, he remained a principled news photographer, resigning from Rapho for a twenty-five year period when he objected to the hostile captioning by The New York Times to his photograph of a strike.[3]

Despite stiff competition from Robert Doisneau and others, the Oxford Companion to the Photograph terms Ronis "the photographer of Paris par excellence".[3]

Ronis continued to live and work in Paris, although he stopped photography in 2001, since he required a cane to walk and could not move around with his camera. He also worked on books for the Taschen publishing company.[5]

In 2005-2006 the City of Paris presented "Willy Ronis in Paris", a big retrospective show of his work, that had a huge success with over than 500,000 visitors.[8]

Exhibition at Rencontres d'Arles (French) festival (France) in 2009.

Ronis died at age 99, on September 12, 2009.


  • Photo-reportage et chasse aux images. Paris: Publications Photo-Cinéma Paul Montel, 1951.
  • Belleville-Ménilmontant. Grenoble: Arthaud, 1954. Paris: Arthaud, 1984. ISBN 2-7003-0486-1. Paris: Arthaud, 1989. Paris: Hoëbeke, 1999. ISBN 2-84230-081-5.
  • Îles de Paris. [N.p.]: Arthaud, 1957.
  • Paris. Paris: Arthaud, 1962.
  • Paris in Colour. London: Allen & Unwin, 1964.
  • Paris in Color. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1964.
  • Sur le fil du hasard. Paris: Contrejour, 1980. ISBN 2-85949-033-7.
  • Willy Ronis. [N.p.]: Galerie municipale du Château d'eau, c.1981. ISBN 2-903116-19-9.
  • Willy Ronis. Paris: P. Belfond, 1983. ISBN 2-7144-1604-7.
  • Willy Ronis par Willy Ronis. Paris: Association française pour la diffusion du patrimoine photographique, 1985.
  • Mon Paris. Paris: Denoël, 1985. ISBN 2-207-23166-6.
  • La Traversée de Belleville. Paris: Le Bar floréal, 1990.
  • Willy Ronis. Paris: Centre national de la photographie, 1991. ISBN 2-86754-066-6.
  • Willy Ronis, 1934-1987. Paris: Editions Treville, 1991. ISBN 4-8457-0688-1.
  • Portrait de Saint-Benoît-du-Sault. Paris: Calmann-Lévy; Versailles: Editions P. Olivieri, 1992.
  • Toutes belles. Paris: Editions Hoëbeke, 1992. ISBN 2-905292-49-0.
  • Willy Ronis: Photographs, 1926-1995. Oxford: Museum of Modern Art, 1995. ISBN 978-0-905836-89-8 (the ISBN is misprinted in the book as ISBN 0-905836-89-X). Published to accompany a touring exhibition, Willy Ronis: Photographs 1926–1995. Edited by Peter Hamilton; preface by Willy Ronis; foreword by David Elliott; essay, "Introduction", by Peter Hamilton.
  • Willy Ronis: 70 ans de déclics. Paris: Musées de la ville de Paris, 1996. ISBN 2-87900-318-0.
  • A nous la vie! 1936–1958. Paris: Hoëbeke, 1996. ISBN 2-84230-009-2.
  • Vivement Noël! Paris: Hoëbeke, 1996. ISBN 2-84230-020-3.
  • Autoportrait. Cognac: Fata Morgana, 1996. ISBN 2-85194-411-8.
  • Les Sorties du dimanche. Paris: Nathan, 1997. ISBN 2-09-754204-2.
  • Provence. Paris: Hoëbeke, 1998. ISBN 2-84230-036-X.
  • Sundays by the River. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1999. ISBN 1-56098-887-8.
  • Willy Ronis: Marie-Anne, Vincent et moi. Trézélan: Filigranes éd., 1999. ISBN 2-910682-76-5.
  • Sur le fil du hasard, rétrospective: Willy Ronis photographies. Antony: Maison des Arts, 1999.
  • Belleville Ménilmontant. Paris: Hoëbeke, 1999. ISBN 2-84230-081-5.
  • Mémoire textile. Strasbourg: La Nuée bleue, 2000. ISBN 2-7165-0538-1.
  • Willy Ronis for Press Freedom. London: Reporters without borders, 2001. ISBN 2-908830-61-2.
  • Derrière l'objectif de Willy Ronis: Photos et propos. Paris: Hoëbeke, 2001. ISBN 2-84230-123-4.
  • Willy Ronis 55. London: Phaidon, 2002. ISBN 0-7148-4167-6.
  • Willy Ronis: "La vie en passant". Munich: Prestel, 2004. ISBN 3-7913-2930-8.
  • Le Val et les bords de Marne. Paris: Terrebleue, 2004. ISBN 2-913019-30-7.
  • Willy Ronis: Stolen Moments / Gestohlene Augenblicke / Instants dérobés. Cologne: Taschen, 2005. ISBN 3-8228-3958-2.
  • Willy Ronis: Paris, éternellement. Paris: Hoëbeke, 2005. ISBN 2-84230-245-1.
  • Willy Ronis. Barcelona: Obra Social Fundacioń "La Caixa", 2006. Texts by Willy Ronis, Marta Gili, Virginie Chardin ISBN 84-7664-901-0.
  • Ce jour-la. Paris: Mercure de France, 2006. ISBN 2-7152-2661-6. Paris: Gallimard, 2008. ISBN 978-2-07-035862-5.
  • Les Chats de Willy Ronis. Paris: Flammarion, 2007. ISBN 2-08-120687-0.
  • Nues. with Philippe Sollers Paris: Terre bleue, 2008. ISBN 978-2-909953-22-9.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Top French Photographer Willy Ronis Dead at 99" Associated Press, September 12, 2009.
  2. ^ Hackel Bury Fine Art - Willy Ronis
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Willy Ronis"; in The Oxford Companion to the Photograph, ed. Robin Lenman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005; ISBN 0-19-866271-8). The author of this article is identified as "PH"; it is not clear whether "PH" is Patricia Hayes or Paul Hill.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Untitled chronology, Willy Ronis 55 (London: Phaidon, 2002; ISBN 0-7148-4167-6), pp. 126–127.
  5. ^ a b c d Willy Ronis Biography
  6. ^ a b Paul Ryan, commentary within Willy Ronis 55, p. 50.
  7. ^ Hopkinson, Amanda (16 September 2009). "Willy Ronis obituary". Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  8. ^ "Paris dans l'oeil de Willy Ronis". Paris. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 

External links[edit]