Maria Helena Vieira da Silva
Throughout the 20th century, the lives of many contemporary artists were characterized by cultural exchange, intellectualism, innovation, experimentation, travel in Europe and artistic fervor. The painter Maria Helena Vieira da Silva participated in this environment, although her life and work had unique and non-transferable nuances.
Despite the clarity of the artistic influences that Vieira da Silva received, such as cubism, abstraction, tachism or surrealism, his work continues to be a stylistic ensemble that is certainly unclassifiable. Despite this, in line with the general criticisms, we will say that Vieira da Silva was, above all, a great abstractionist.
Origins of Vieira da Silva
Born in 1908 into a family used to travelling, especially in Europe. At an early age, he visited key countries such as Italy, England or France, the latter being one of the most important for the future.
The path that leads Vieira da Silva to become an "obsessive memory painter" and a "weaver of light threads" as some media call him, begins with two fundamental facts: the loss of his father at two years old. age and education in arts and music from childhood.
He began his artistic training at the Lisbon School of Fine Arts, where he was born, finishing it in 1928 and moving his residence to Paris, obtaining dual nationality. At that time, Paris was the capital of the contemporary art world, midway through the interwar period, and was certainly attracted to the artistic novelty and enthusiasm of the moment.
Vieira da Silva is commonly identified with the School of Paris, which art critic André Warnod describes as an international community of foreign artists residing in Paris whose creations do not subscribe to any ism .
It is estimated that at this time, Paris was home to twenty independent art rooms and a hundred art galleries, which undoubtedly turned into an opportunity for Vieira da Silva. After some first steps as a sculptor at the Academia do Grande-Chaumiere and the artist Bourdelle, Vieira da Silva decided on the genre of painting. He attended classes with cubist Fernand Léger and met engraver Stanley William Hayter, the most prestigious of the entire 20th century.
Around the 1930s, Vieira da Silva absorbed the influence of the abstract expression of the Círculo e Quadrado (Cercle et Carré) group, having already gone through other influences such as the Fauvist Otho Friesz or the Cubist Charles Dufresne, whose echoes resonate in his work.
With similar inspirations, Vieira da Silva's intimate look, which is worth exploring, quickly conquered the world.
Vieira da Silva's look
His gaze, or rather, the memory of Vieira da Silva, hides an affectionate spirit under the composite patterns of his canvases that end up triumphing sooner rather than later. Jeanne Bucher, owner of the Jeanne Bucher Gallery, exhibited Vieira da Silva for the first time in 1933, creating the first acquisition of her work a year later.
In Vieira da Silva somehow resides the Fauvism of the beginning of the century, the visual strength and the juxtaposition of flat color make it evident. But it lacks the application of representative "emancipated" patches and the intrinsic "anger" of Fauvism, although it didn't need it either. Its most important lesson was probably given by Cézanne, the “painter of painters” from whom Vieira da Silva learned to be an artist lasting through time and to navigate the transition that modern painting entailed.
Vieira da Silva's imagination takes place in a dynamism where the parts of the painting do not completely eclipse the composition. Experiment with a fusion of the abstract and figurative method, with the agglutination of elements from synthetic cubism and a use of color reminiscent of primitivism.
But, above all, he experienced his own memories and his autobiographical imagery, and he gives us a beautiful Villa des Camelias, a Ripolin, an echo perhaps of Paul Klee in the 1932 Still Life Blue...
With the Second World War, his life took a radical turn and he had to emigrate to Brazil to spend seven fruitful years in contact with the constructivist painter Joaquín Torres García, another great master.
In the post-war period, its aesthetic drained the ravages of conflict, in addition to rescuing culture with ruined cities, cities with towers, the street, a spiral, an enigma, the maisons, the Bibliothequè, the interior of a spiral, in a total revolution that, despite its ambiguity, synthesized the first vanguard of the century.
Notable works by Vieira da Silva
There are many international recognitions that Vieira da Silva has.
The Guggenheim International Prize, the work for the church of Saint Jacques in Reims in 1963 where he developed a magnificent stained glass window with a faithful disposition of its usual ocher chromaticity, the Grand Prix National des Arts de Paris, a commendation at the Bienal de São Paulo in 1989 or his appointment as a member of the National Academy of Fine Arts of Portugal.
On the other hand, Vieira da Silva's retrospectives are numerous, and have spread throughout Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and France, entering various museums and exhibition spaces.
His work partially died with him in 1992, although his legacy is eternal. Among his most important works, there are some that transport us to these post-war environments, such as O Corredor (1950), La Gare Inondeé (1956), A Departure of Chess (1945), des miroirs (1971), Bibliothéque en Feu (1974) and his own self-portrait or Self Portrait (1942).
Vieira da Silva on P55
At P55, we offer works by Vieira da Silva that are especially related to his abstraction style works, oils on canvas, silkscreens or lithographs, some of which are related to her husband Arpad Szenes, with whom he developed illustration projects for children's books and works textiles.