Artist biography

Jean Hélion born 1904 [- 1987]

French abstract and figurative painter, born at Couterne in Normandy. Moved in 1921 to Paris, where he first worked as apprentice to an architect; began to paint in 1923, self-taught, and since 1925 has painted full-time. Began by painting still lifes, portraits and landscapes, his work gradually becoming more and more abstract. Painted in an entirely abstract style from 1929-39; became a member of the Groupe Art Concret in 1929 and co-founder and member of Abstraction-Création 1931-4. First one-man exhibition at the Galerie Pierre, Paris, 1932. Moved to the USA (New York and Rockbridge Baths, Virginia) in 1936, but returned to France in 1940 to join the French Army. Was taken prisoner, but escaped in 1942 and returned to the USA. Published a book on his war experiences, They shall not have me, in 1942. Started to paint again in 1943 in a figurative style (scenes of everyday life, etc.), which was at first strongly based on abstraction but gradually became looser and more impressionistic in handling; since 1951 has painted many works from nature, including views of Paris and Belle-Ile. Has lived mainly in Paris since 1946 but travels extensively.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.358-9