Born in Beaufort West, Cape, in what was then the Union of South Africa and now resides in the Cape.
Shortly before the French Revolution her ancestor, Raoul Villet and Madame La Motte were involved in the well-known affair of the necklace of Marie Antoinette and the then Cardinal of France. Post or propter hoc as the case may be, Raoul Villet subsequently left France and became the owner of Café Plantation in the Gonaives area of Hispaniola, the western part of the island known today as Haiti.
One of his sons, Jean Villet taught art, and became well known for his water-colour studies of plants, while another, Charles Mathurin Villet, the immediate progenitor of Cynthia’s branch of the family in early nineteenth-century South Africa at the time of the Huguenot settlers, was a distinguished botanist, honoured with awards and medallions in France.
A more contemporary Villet (Jean Charles) achieved a more dubious fame in France as a forger of impressionist paintings, justifying his brilliant forgeries with the remark : “The dealers let my grandfather die of hunger”.
Cynthia Villet’s only brother, Grey Villet, was for some twenty years a staff photographer for Life Magazine, where he covered Castro’s revolution in Cuba amongst many other assignments. He has several Time / Life books to his credit, and is represented in the retrospective volume “The Best of Life” recently published. He illustrated his wife’s book “Blood River”.
Cynthia’s late father, Dr Charles Theodore deMornet Villet, practiced as a surgeon in Cape Town and Worcester, and his botanical and other water-colours are sought after as Africana.
Cynthia studied mainly at the Sir John Cass School of Art in London, and at the Vancouver School of Fine Art, under the painter Jack Shadbolt.
Cynthia Villet has lived and worked not only in Africa, Canada and Barbados, but also in England and in Israel, and she has the following achievements behind her :