Les amoureux de la colonne de Bastille, Paris, 1957

Silver print, 41 X 54cm with borders, authentic

Stamped Stéphane Kovalsky Collection, Willy Ronis inheritance

Estimation : 2.500-3.500 € / 2.2750-3.850 $


Willy Ronis about how years later he met the couple in the photo: “I went to see them, they were called Riton and Marinette and I saw that they had the poster framed in their café which was on the corner of the Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine and the Rue des Tournelles. They welcomed me warmly and told me they had been up the column just one time and they remember it very clearly. They were from the Averyron and at that time they did not have the bistro. They bought the bistro two or three years later when they were married. The most amazing thing is that on the photo, one can depict the corner of the building where they now have the bistro, in the direction they are looking” – Extract from Virginie Chardin’s book “Paris et la photographie. Cent histoires extraordinaires, de 1839 à nos jours”, Parigramme, 2003

Exhibition:     From Friday 9 December to Tuesday 13 December 2016

Sales:                13 December 2016 at 7pm

Location:        7, Rond Point des Champs-Elysées, Paris


A rare ARTCURIAL event and a first Monographic Auction. 160 photographs realised by Willy Ronis and belonging to his grandson, Stéphane Kowalsky, are put by Artcurial on offer. A collection of famous and less seen photographs covering the years of creation of the photography and capturing Parisian street scenes, Belleville Ménilmontant, the life of the working class, holidays, nudes, ski, the Eastern Germany.


Le nu Provençal, Gordes, 1949

Silver print, 40.5 x 30.5 cm, authentic, stamped Willy Ronis, collection Stéphane Kovalsky, signed with ink in the interior, bottom border, title and date written by Willy Ronis on the back

Estimation : 3.000-4.000 € /  3.300-4.400 $


For the collectors acquiring the auctioned pieces, each and every photograph will be stamped, indicating its authentic provenance from the Willy Ronis Atelier and the Stéphane Kowalsky Collection.

Willy Ronis was a humanist artist having as fellow photographers Henri Cartier – Bresson, Robert Doisneau and Edouard Boubat. As a modern photographer, he worked notably for Magnum.

His passion for photography begins at the age of 16 when he receives a camera. He first takes photos of Tour Eiffel and his family. Later, he becomes interested in reporting. He witnesses the 1930s working class strikes. He further reports on Front Populaire, the 1936 social issues and paid holidays. With the time, newspapers start commissioning his works. For the French Magazine Regards, he reports on the workers of the Citroën factories in Javel in the Paris of 1938. After the Second World War, he documents the arrival of prisoners and the joys of the Victory in Paris.

He joined the XV group and founded the French Humanist School. Paris and Ile de France were his favourite subjects. He captured simple, yet beautiful moments of Parisian life. In 1950, he focused on Communist movements and working class social issues. When the automobile invaded Paris, he sought refuge in the south of France. He returned to regularly capture the transformations of Paris and the construction of the RER and of the Centre Pompidou. His ideal was no longer reflected in this industrial setting. Towards the end of his life, he returned to Paris. In 2001, 8 years before he died, decided to put away his camera for good.

The importance of his work was recognized towards the end of his life and his artistic heritage was significant. The photographer was keen to pass on his experience to future generations and in 1983 and 1989, he left his works to the French state. The bulk of this fund, constituted of thousands of authentic images, is conserved today by the state at the Médiathèque du Patrimoine. The last images kept by the photographer before his death in his apartment were also passed on to the state. 6,000 photographs were left to his grandson, Stéphane Kovalsky, a French contemporary photographer.


Le petit parisien, Paris

Silver print, 129.5 x 87cm, signed in ink in the interior, bottom border, stamped Willy Ronis, collection Stéphane Kovalsky

Estimation : 8.000-10.000 € / Estimation : 8.800-11.000 $

Stéphane Kovalsky about his gradfather inheritance: “Photography was passed down to me by my grandfather at a young age. As time went by, I realised that he led me by hand and encouraged me to look differently at the composition of a subject in the street. I experienced the magic of his darkroom laboratory where I saw key photographs emerge from the trays…I am thrilled today to be able to share some of these works.

The aim of this auction is to offer collectors a rare opportunity to acquire original prints by Willy Ronis and thus confirm his place in the history of photography. It is important to distinguish between authentic prints and the unreliable prints which have been polluting the art market since the artist’s death.

The event, the exhibition and the auction catalogue will mark this year’s cultural calendar. Artcurial will highlight the event, just like for Henri Cartier-Bresson and Brassaï.

Read more about this auction

Read more about the ARTCURIAL auctions