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


Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-1992)
signed and dated 'Vieira da Silva 53' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 32in. (65 x 81.2cm.)
Painted in 1953
Hans and Alice de Jong, Hengelo.
Galerie Lases, Paris.
G. Weelan and J.-F. Jaeger (eds.), Vieira da Silva. Catalogue Raisonnae, Geneva 1994, no. 1032 (illustrated, p. 201).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Vieira da Silva-Germaine Richier, February-March 1955, no. 2a.
Geneva, Galerie du Perron, Vieira da Silva, February - March 1956, no. 19.
Almelo, Kunstring de waag, Van Daumier tot Picasso, twents particulier Besit, March-April 1956, no. 128 (illustrated, pl. 42)
Arnheim, Gemeentemuseum, Oog in oog. Met Hans en Alice de Jong, June-September 1970, no. 1.
Lyngby, Sophienholm, International Billedkunst- Hans de Jong's Samling, June-August 1971.
Special notice
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

Lot Essay

"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. Wheelen & J-F. Jaeger, Viera da Silva, Geneva 1994, p. 91).

Vieira da Silva's Construction reveals itself before the viewer; the accumulation of small horizontal and vertical lines forming the patchwork of a cityscape. Her technique of painting, 'like a bee', imbues this work with great energy and movement; the diagonal lines create a powerful feeling of depth, guiding the viewer's eyes back and forth across the canvas. The grey and black patchwork seems to echo the classical tradition of architectural drawing and painting. In fact, Vieira da Silva rids her composition of the limitations of meticulous draughtsmanship by visually exploding all the strict structural lines.

Vieira da Silva, a former student of Fernand Léger, is widely considered the greatest Portuguese artist of the 20th century, though she spent most of her life in France, becoming a French citizen in 1956. Inspired by the work of Paul Cezanne and the Cubists, she developed her own semi-abstract style characterised by the presence of architectural forms and limited use of colour. Construction was created in the midst of the debate between abstraction and figuration in the artistic community. She combined both forms of expression (abstraction and figuration) with her highly detailed, complicated patterns executed with masterful spatial manipulations using checkered surfaces, luminous spots, and intersecting lines (fostered in large part by the azulejos, or floor and wall tiles from her native Portugal). This, combined with her interest in scenography, led her to the portrayal of space, itself an expression of life. The scenes she creates are the stage on which life is lived, and the urban texture of Construction reflects the age in which it was painted. Vieira da Silva strongly believed that every person is a product of their age and society and in her art she sought to express her age and self. As she said in 1955, two years after Construction was painted, 'The picture is not an escape, it should be a friend who talks to you, who uncovers the riches in you and around you" (Vieira da Silva, quoted in Ibid., p. 92).

"They talk to us about reality. Everything astonishes me, I paint my astonishment which is wonder, terror and laughter all at once" (Vieira da Silva, quoted in Ibid., p. 91).

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