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Maria-Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-1992)
Maria-Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-1992)


Maria-Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-1992)
signed and dated 'Vieira da Silva 66' (lower right)
oil on canvas
38¼ x 76¾in. (97 x 195cm.)
Painted in 1966
Galerie Jeanne-Bucher, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1968.
G. Boudaille, "Il existe une peinture française", in La Galerie des Arts, Paris 1967 (illustrated).
F. Pernes, "Vieira da Silva pintor de Portugal e de Paris", in Vida Mundial, no. 1623, 17 July 1970, p. 32.
D. Vallier, La peinture de Vieira da Silva: Chemins d'approche, Paris 1971 (illustrated, p. 234).
S. Lemoine, Donation Granville. Tome 2. Oeuvres réalisées après 1900, Dijon 1976, p. 307.
A. Terrasse, L'Univers de Vieira da Silva, Paris 1977, p. 90.
J. Laude, "Vieira da Silva ou l'unique obligation qu'est la peinture" in Cimaise, no. 145, January-February 1980, p. 22 (illustrated, p. 23).
A. Bonet Correa, Vieira da Silva, Barcelona 1980, no. 58 (illustrated).
J. Lassaigne and G. Weelen, Vieira da Silva, Paris 1987, no. 305 (illustrated).
C. Roy, Vieira da Silva, Barcelona 1988, no. 64 (illustrated).
G. Weelen and J.-F. Jaeger, Vieira da Silva Monographie, Geneva 1993 (illustrated in colour, p. 276).
G. Weelen and J-F. Jaeger, Vieira da Silva: Catalogue raisonné, Geneva 1994, no. 2068 (illustrated, p. 417).
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. 73 (illustrated, p. 64). 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. 151). 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. 108).

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Lot Essay

'Perspective captivated me... To succeed in encapsulating a whole space on a small piece of canvas! But that is at odds with the rules of pictorial representation and the laws of a certain age.'

(Vieira da Silva, quoted in Vieira da Silva 1908-1992, The Quest for Unknown Space, Cologne 1998, p. 54).

On her return to Paris after the war, Vieira da Silva began an extraordinary period of creativity. Her canvases grew in both size and complexity, yielding an intoxicating mix of line and perspective. Her best work from the post-war period expanded on her earlier investigations into space and perspective. Her unspecified sense of place and perspective is best demonstrated in her monumental 1966 work L'équité. In this large rectangular canvas, Vieira da Silva's composition displays a heady duality of perspectival understanding. Strong diagonal lines pierce the outer extremities of the picture plane and converge on a central vanishing point in the centre of the canvas in the traditional manner, but Vieira da Silva's unique vision counterbalances this with a radical abandoning of these very rules in other parts of her composition, forcing us to question their relevance in modern painting. This unease had always fascinated the artist, whose constantly changing relationship with perception of perspective had dominated her career.

Vieira da Silva's painstakingly created paintings appear almost organic; constructed through the self-generated internal logic of the canvas' own contained universe. In L'équité the artist creates this internal sense of space by playing with the traditional rules of perspective. The labyrinthine nature lies at the very heart of her oeuvre, and in this work the artist excels at skillfully combining the often contradictory nature of perspective into one coherent work which entices us to explore its visual possibilities. The lines in L'équité force our eyes to dart up and down; from left to right, making us active participants in the artistic process. This was the artist's intent, to involve us, to make us feel that we are travelling within the strange and abstract labyrinth of her art, 'I do not want people to remain passive, I want them to come and take part in the game, go for a walk, climb up, go down'. (Vieira da Silva, quoted in Vieira da Silva 1908-1992, The Quest for Unknown Space, Cologne 1998, p. 71). It is the combination of this active reaction to the painting and of its final inscrutability that makes us share her own uncertainty when faced the enigma of life.

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