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Adolphe Willette

Adolphe Willette, 1857-1926, was a Cornet Society member from 1905 and an honorary member until his death. He was most famous and sought-after for his lithographs, posters, paintings and illustrations commissioned for magazines between 1880 and 1910. His large and famous Parce Domine painting of many Pierrots hung in the Chat Noir and is now displayed in Montmartre Museum.  

Willette was affectionately referred to as the “Pierrot of Montmartre,” and was so obsessed with this character that, during the last days of his life, after a bloodletting (a process of draining one to four pints of blood to restore health, which was a common medical treatment at that time), painted a Pierrot character with his own blood! He wrote of Pierrot: 

“He was thought dead for a long time…Certainly not, he is not even old. He is still as modern as his sorrow is eternal. His father was unknown and a long time ago he fell from the moon into the public domain… 

I adopted this character and made him my own, not only for his black costume, short pants and thin shoes, but also for his soul and the tenderness and fantasy of his step.” 

One of his many uses of the Pierrot figure was to incorporate it into a comic-style story without words that featured Pierrot up to mischief of some kind. Willette’s work often poked satirical jabs at the government or at established political or societal norms. His illustrations can be found in many publications including his own, Le Pierrot, as well as Le Pied de Nez, Courrier Francais and Le Rire. He was among the founders of the journal Les Humoristes, was a friend of Steinlen, Toulouse-Lautrec and Jules Cheret, and  a member of the Bon Bock Society and Society of Designers and Humorists. Willette designed eight Cornet menus and at least one invitation for the Cornet Society between 1899 and 1926, contributed four posters to Masters of the Poster, and added two Pierrot postcards to Wague’s collection, one in 1907 and the other in 1914.





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Written by Jason Smith
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