Willy Maywald was born in Kleve in the Lower Rhine region in 1907, he attended the schools of applied arts in Krefeld, Cologne, and Berlin which shaped his avant-garde style. In 1932 he moved to the city on the Seine, where he befriended many of the protagonists of modern art. The bustling arts scene of Paris offered him many different images – from the 1937 World Exhibition to the nuclear research facility in Ivry-sur-Seine.

At the beginning of World War II Maywald was initially detained and then fled successfully to Switzerland. In 1946 he came back to Paris. He helped Christian Dior’s New Look rise to fame; he became a fashion photographer for all major Haute Couture houses in Paris. The photographs Maywald took in prominent artist’s studios – Picasso and Léger among others – were put on display in galleries and reprinted in many magazines and books.