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Intérieur | 1951

December 20th 2021 - January 20th 2022

Intérieur, 1951, was created at a pivotal moment in the career of Maria Helena Vieira da Silva. The early 1950s saw the artist working through a range of references, formats and palettes and getting closer to the powerful and allusive painting for which she is most famous.

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Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (1908 – 1992)

Intérieur, 1951

Oil on canvas
Signed and dated Vieira da Silva 51, bottom right.
46,5 x 55,5 cm | 18 1/4 x 21 7/8 inches
61,5 x 70,5 cm avec cadre | 24 1/4 x 27 3/4 inches, with frame.

Private collection, France
Baronne Goury du Roslan Collection, Paris (acquired in 1958)
Private collection, Paris

Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft & Deutschland; Wuppertal, Kunst- und Museumsverein; Brumen, Kunsthalle, Vieira da Silva, March-May 1958, n° 38

J.F. Jaeger and G. Weelen, Vieira da Silva Catalogue Raisonné, Geneva, 1994, No. 821 (illustrated p. 161).
G. Weelen, Vieira da Silva, atelier d’aujourd’hui, Paris, 1973 (illustrated p. 21).
G. Weelen, Vieira da Silva ou les structures mouvantes et superposées, La Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France, Paris, 19° year, 1969 (illustrated p. 299).

“ Before drawing a painting, I want to paint certain colours. The decision is the colour in general, not the line. ”

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva

Born in Lisbon, the painter Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-1992) settled in Paris in 1928 to become one of the major figures in post-war art, one of the few female artists to achieve international recognition from the 1950s. In her painting, qualified as “abstract landscape art,” Vieira focused her attention and practice on the issue of constructing and perceiving space.

Maria Helena Vieira Da Silva in her studio, 34 rue de l'Abbe-Carton, Paris 1960. © Wölbing-Van Dyck, Bielefeld and Ida Kar

Intérieur, an oil on canvas created in 1951, illustrates the great meticulousness with which the artist built her paintings, using a composition principle adopted in the mid-1930s: a network of interconnected lines, checkboards and wefts where colour played an essential role, whilst contributing to an ambiguous spatiality. At the heart of this visual language lay a vocabulary of simple shapes: lines, squares, circles, diamonds, which conferred a complexity to the compositions. Obeying the artist’s own personal laws of perspective, these fragmented visions play with the spectator’s gaze and compose mental landscapes that blur the boundary between abstraction and figuration.


Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Intérieur 1951, detail.

“By the addition of small dabs, one after the other, laboriously like a bee, the picture takes shape...”

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva

Joaquin Torres Garcia, Objetos, 1944. Oil on cardboard, 22x32 cm. © Georges Meguerditchian, Centre Pompidou / MNAM-CCI.

The composition is dominated by a chromatic play, which recalls the primacy of colour in Vieira’s work. The palette is composed of small, bright, reddish-orange squares and lemon-yellow lines – dazzling colours that attract the gaze. These are complemented by a subtle network of navy blues, greens, slate greys and milky whites, which stand out from an ebony-black background. Colour becomes shape, and the vibration of these different shades creates a feeling of depth. This bears witness to the artist’s incredible skill as a colourist. She was inspired by Joaquin Torres-Garcia, whose work she discovered in 1929 and who paved the way for her construction of perspective by means of the juxtaposition of colours.

The theme of Intérieur recalls Vieira’s attachment to the intimate universe, the one she experienced during her solitary childhood, surrounded by books and music, and the one she recreated as an adult, in the Parisian studio which she moved into from Brazil with her husband Arpad Szenes.

Arpad Szenes and Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Paris, 1939.

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Bibliothèque, 1949. Oil on canvas, 114.5x147.5 cm. © Philippe Migeat, Centre Pompidou / MNAM-CCI.

Interiors, libraries, and enclosed spaces are the themes of choice for this solitary painter, who always kept a distance from artistic circles but who recreated a personal, eminently poetic world on her canvases. The mobile gaze travels across the canvas, gets lost in it, as in a labyrinth, and seeks to identify places by mobilising its own memory. These evocative surfaces are offered up like psychological spaces, possibilities for reflection revealing all the complexity of the world.

Intérieur was exhibited as part of the artist’s first retrospective in Germany in 1958, in Hanover, Wuppertal, Brumen and Kunsthalle. Guy Weelen, an art critic and the author of the catalogue raisonnée in which Vieira’s work is referenced and illustrated, wrote two books which feature this piece: one in the Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France in 1969, and Vieira da Silva, atelier d’aujourd’hui, in 1973.

Guy Weelen , Vieira da Silva, atelier d'aujourd'hui, Paris 1973.

In the gallery

A&R FLEURY is pleased to share this online visit with you. The gallery, located close to the Palais de l’Elysée and the Hôtel Bristol, opened a new space in 2018, in a neighbourhood surrounded by prestigious institutions, at the heart of the Parisian art market. Intérieur by Maria Helena Vieira Da Silva is on display in the gallery, alongside works by masters of the twentieth century and contemporary artists.

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