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Maria-Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-1992)
TWO IMPORTANT WORKS BY MARIA-HELENA VIEIRA DA SILVA 'In adding little stain after little stain, laboriously, like a bee, the picture makes itself. A picture should have its heart, its nervous system, its bones and its circulation. It should resemble a person in its movements' (Vieira da Silva, quoted in G. Weelen and J.-F. Jaeger, Vieira da Silva, Geneva 1993, p. 91). Maria Helena Vieira da Silva's complex and highly structured works are the result of her lifelong fascination with the perception and representation of surface and depth on the painted surface. Her labyrinthine constructions are made up of painterly swathes of pigment together with finely executed lines and placed against an amorphous background which plays with complex perspectives that blur the boundaries between abstract and figurative composition. Her magnificent structures invite the viewer to explore the spatial ambiguities and, as with many of her major works, hold the viewer in rapt attention as they attempt to decipher the rich, visual complexities that she constructs upon the canvas. Vieira da Silva's enigmatic brand of visual realization has its roots, in part at least, in the peripatetic years of her early career. Born in Lisbon in 1908 her orderly compositions of delicate lines closely resemble the geometry of her native Portugal, the rooms and buildings covered with the famous azulejos glazed ceramic tiles together with the nineteenth-century engineering of Gustav Eiffel taken from her adopted home, Paris. During her early years in Paris she became influenced by the work of the post-impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard, whose depictions of domestic interiors were dominated by strong geometric patterns on the walls, floors and surfaces. Her time in Paris was abruptly cut short by the outbreak of World War II and Vieira da Silva was forced to return to Portugal before fleeing to Brazil, where she lived with her husband, the Hungarian painter Arpad Szenes. On hearing regular reports of the horrific conflict from the other side of the war, she became increasingly isolated by her feelings of anger and helplessness. Much of her early work was dominated by these themes of segregation from the perceived realities of the world. "People frequently say that artists live in ivory towers", she once commented. "I think I am quite different, my life is quite the opposite. I feel everything happening in the world is falling upon me with such violence that it almost drives me mad" (Vieira da Silva quoted in Vieira da Silva 1908-1992, The Quest for Unknown Space, Cologne 1998, p. 42). From these experiences Vieira da Silva developed a unique visual means of expressing her position in the world. The resulting strong vertical and horizontal lines of her grids give us an uneasy sense of our place in the universe, they are a non-specific existential map in which we find but cannot locate ourselves. The urban landscape became an increasingly important part of her visual language in the years after the Second World War. After her return to war-ravaged Europe, Vieira da Silva became increasingly inspired by the depiction of urban scenes. She became fascinated by the modern organization of human life and began to take inspiration from the streets, subways, bridges and other geometric objects that make up the modern urban environment. For Vieira da Silva, these became symbols of humankind's existence in the modern world, whether these objects float in the distance or manifest themselves close up, they are all metaphors for a world precariously poised between chaos and order. Her abstract but nonetheless very real accounts of the world she saw around her switches without transition from infinite smallness to amazing greatness in a manner that is unmatched by any other artist of her generation. Sublime yet dazzlingly complex, Vieira da Silva's work offers up a unique blend of visual style in which she combines a radical reassessment of the qualities of painterly representation with a comment on the increasing isolation of post-modern human condition. Her dramatic structural motifs affiliate her works with the paysagisme abstrait of Jean Bazaine and Alfred Manessier and have been seen as a visual metaphor for the alienation which was topical in the post-war writings of Jean-Paul Sartre. Strong parallels have been drawn between Vieira da Silva's work and the themes raised in Sartre's debut novel La Nausée, in which he examines the consequences of living alone. Vieira da Silva's work raises many more questions than it answers, perfectly capturing the zeitgeist of the period and in the process ensuring that she has become one of the most celebrated painters of her generation. PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION SOLD TO BENEFIT A CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
Maria-Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-1992)

Conséquences contradictoires

Maria-Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-1992)
Conséquences contradictoires
signed and dated '67 Vieira da Silva' (lower right)
oil on canvas
76¾ x 38¼in. (195 x 97cm.)
Painted in 1964-1967
Galerie Jeanne-Bucher, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1968.
P. D., "Vieira da Silva en grande forme", in La Tribune de Lausanne, 26 November 1967 (illustrated).
G. Bonnefoi, "L'espace et ses mirages", in Connaissance des Arts no. 212, October 1969 (illustrated, p. 120).
P. Sers, "Vieira da Silva", in Chroniques de l'art vivant, no. 5, November 1969 (illustrated, p. 10).
J. Guichard-Meili, "Vieira da Silva. Le un et l'infini", in Nouvelle Revue Française, December 1969, p. 911.
D. Vallier, La peinture de Vieira da Silva: Chemins d'approche, Paris 1971 (illustrated, p. 235).
G. Weelen, Vieira da Silva, Paris 1973 (illustrated, p. 45).
A. Terrasse, L'Univers de Vieira da Silva, Paris 1977, pp. 66 and 90.
Vieira da Silva et ses conséquences contradictoires, peintures à tempera, exh. cat., Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1977.
J. Laude, "Vieira da Silva ou l'unique obligation qu'est la peinture", in Cimaise, no. 145, January-February 1980, p. 22.
M. Butor, Vieira da Silva - Peintures, Paris 1983, p. 60.
J. Lassaigne and G. Weelen, Vieira da Silva, Paris 1987, no. 304 (illustrated).
C. Roy, Vieira da Silva, Barcelona 1988, no. 60 (illustrated).
Maison Française, December 1988 (illustrated, p. 63).
H. Gauville, "Que viva Vieira da Silva", in Libération, 23 September 1988 (illustrated p. 44).
"Viva Vieira", in Suplemento de Faz, no. 433, 7 March 1992 (illustrated, p. IV).
G. Weelen and J.-F. Jaeger, Vieira da Silva Monographie, Geneva 1993 (illustrated in colour, p. 273).
G. Weelen and J.-F. Jaeger, Vieira da Silva: Catalogue raisonné, Geneva 1994, no. 2183 (illustrated, p. 444).
Paris, Galerie Jeanne-Bucher, Vieira da Silva, 1967-68 (illustrated).
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Vieira da Silva, peintures 1935-1969, 1969-70, no. 78 (illustrated, p. 66). This exhibition later travelled to Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen; Oslo, Kunstnernes Hus; Basel, Kunsthalle and Lisbon, Fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian.
Lisbon, Fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian, Vieira da Silva, 1988
(illustrated, p. 113). This exhibition later travelled to Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais.
Lisbon, Fundação Arpad Szenes-Vieira da Silva, Vieira da Silva nas coleções internacionais, 2004-05 (illustrated in colour, p. 112).

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Alice de Roquemaurel

Lot Essay

Conséquences contradictoires cuts to the very heart of the ideas that defines Vieira da Silva's work as an artist. The strict regimented lines, the abstracted sense of perspective and the rich palate of warm colours presents us with a work that is both familiar and yet, at the same time, disorientating. Its grid like pattern is reminiscent of an aerial view of city street plan but on approaching the painting the maze-like layout plunges us into a zone of deep receding planes that is quite unlike the work of any of her contemporaries. Crucially, the picture bares the traces of its own construction, of the artist's slow and meticulous movements in conjuring up this landscape of the mind: "In adding little stain after little stain, laboriously, like a bee, the picture makes itself. A picture should have its heart, its nervous system, its bones and its circulation. It should resemble a person in its movements" (Vieira da Silva, quoted in G. Weelen and J.-F. Jaeger, Vieira da Silva, Geneva 1993, p. 91). The picture has thus come into existence in part through organic means, as a direct product of that same sense of chance and hazard that it records.

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