Jean Helion (1904-1987)

Sans titre

Jean Helion (1904-1987)
Sans titre
signed, inscribed and dated 'Hélion New York dec. 36 15 janvier 1937 et 2-3. Fév. 38' (on the reverse); signed and dated again 'Hélion 37' (on the right tacking edge)
oil on canvas
43 7/8 x 32 7/8 in. (111.5 x 83.5 cm.)
Painted in New York, 1936-1938
Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 6 May 1999, lot 132.
Galerie Piltzer, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, circa 2000.
Gaillac, Château de Foucaud, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Exposition Jean Hélion, June-September 2003.
Sale room notice
The Jean Helion Association will include this painting in the forthcoming Jean Helion catalogue raisonné.

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Lot Essay

The Jean Helion Association will include this painting in the forthcoming Jean Helion catalogue raisonné.

Hélion began experimenting with abstract forms in 1929, following the lead of artists such as Piet Mondrian and the de Stijl movement. Along with Théo van Doesburg, Hélion founded the relatively short-lived revue Art Concret which later expanded and became known as Abstraction-Création and included artists such as Hans Jean Arp, Albert Gleizes, Auguste Herbin and Robert Delaunay, among others. As a tireless proponent of abstract art, Hélion traveled to London where he met Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson in 1934. Between 1935 and 1939 he also made extensive trips to the United States where he was credited with influencing the work of Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning and other Abstract Expressionist artists through his painting and philosophical notions of art.

The present painting clearly reflects the influence of Mondrian and de Stijl, while also focusing attention on Hélion's individuality. By 1936 Hélion had crafted his own distinct brand of abstraction characterized by using dramatically rounded forms and variations in color to create volumetric figures in space. According to Hélion, "Mondrian, whom I always admired but could not agree with, based his expressions on a reduction of means and the elimination of particularized representation. He used to say to me, 'We are not of the same tradition--you are a Naturalist.' Even as early as 1935 he 'accused' me of belonging to the French naturalist tradition" (quoted in, "Eleven Europeans in America," The Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, New York, 1946, vol. XIII, nos. 4-5, p. 29).

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