Worked primarily with watercolors. Studied at Premazzi and later Portaels in Brussels. In 1868-86 worked in Italy, Germany and France. 1868 — the academician. Member of the St. Petersburg society of watercolors, exhibitions which is superior. mainly appeared his works; member of the Belgian society of watercolorists. V. — one of the cultural representatives of the Russian watercolor painting of the second half of the 19th century His numerous landscapes are scattered in private collections and only a small number are represented in the museums of the USSR: in the Tretyakov gallery, the Russian Museum (Leningrad), Radischevskaya Museum (Saratov) and others V. took close part in the library movement of the 1900s.
Officer of the Preobrazhensky regiment (until 1862) Mikhail Yakovlevich Willie received his artistic education, first taking private lessons from L. O. Premazzi, then situated as volnoprihodyaschego student of the Academy of fine arts. In 1863, after a series of works (the Ruins of the castle of Wesenberg, the Church of St. Nicholas in revel) he received the title of artist. Further improving his skills in Brussels and Munich, and in 1868 received the title of academician for a series of watercolors (the Savvino-Storozhevsky monastery, Bernkastel on the Moselle. Prussia, Inside the dining room of count Kushelev-Bezborodko).
Despite the fact that MJ Willie lived from 1865 to 1885, mostly abroad, and there he built many painted in watercolor and oil works, he maintained very close ties with Russia, participated in exhibitions of the Academy and the society of Russian watercolors.
On returning to Russia, travels through the old towns, creating in 1880-1890-ies of the numerous types of ancient architectural monuments: a series of Yaroslavl (General view of Yaroslavl, the Church of the Nativity, Moscow Outpost in Yaroslavl), the districts of Yaroslavl province, etc.
Active professional and social activities M. J. Willie became the reason of his election in 1903 a member of the Academy of arts. And he was a member of the Royal Belgian watercolour society. The artist's works were shown at many international, including the world, exhibitions. In 1912 and 1913 in St. Petersburg held a posthumous exhibition of works by MJ Willie. His works in our time take pride of place in many museums around the country.