Jean Hélion born 1904 [- 1987]
T00766 Ile de France
Inscribed 'Jean Hélion 1935 | TOP HAUT' on stretcher and 'Hélion | Paris 35' on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 57 1/4 x 78 3/4 (145.5 x 200)
Purchased from the Leicester Galleries (Grant-in-Aid) 1965
Prov: With Louis Carré, Paris (purchased from the artist 1962); with Leicester Galleries, London, 1965
Exh: Benno, Fernandez, Gonzalez, Hélion, Kandinsky, Laurens, Uger, Lipchitz, Magnelli, Picasso: Oeuvres Récentes, Galerie Castelucho-Diana, Paris, June 1935 (works not listed, repr.); Abstract and Concrete, St Giles, Oxford, February 1936 (10) as 'Painting, 1935'; School of Architecture, Liverpool, March 1936 (no catalogue); Lefevre Gallery, London, April 1936 (9 or 13, both entitled 'Painting, 1935'); Cambridge Arts Club, May-June 1936 (no catalogue); Origines et Développement de l'Art International Indépendant, Musée du Jeu de Paume, Paris, July-October 1937 (166) as 'Composition'; Jean Hélion: Peintures 1929-1939, Galerie Louis Carré, Paris, June-July 1962 (9, repr. in colour); Jean Hélion, Leicester Galleries, London, June 1965 (7, repr.); Hélion: Cent Tableaux 1928-1970, Grand Palais, Paris, December 1970-February 1971 (works not numbered, repr.)
Lit: 'Visual Music by Rebel Artists' in Daily Sketch, 12 May 1936, p.10 repr.; P.G. Bruguière, Jean Hélion (Paris 1970), p.41
Repr: Decoration, No.24 (N.S.), May 1937, p.39 as 'Painting 1935'; Art International, VI, 25 September 1962, p.65 in colour (on its side); Architectural Review, CXXXVIII, 1965, p.201
Hélion has written (letter of 29 October 1965) that there were three pictures the same size, done or begun in 1935. One reproduced in Axis, No.4, 1935, p.6 was formerly in the Walter P. Chrysler collection. 'The second is this one of yours, that the collector and writer Pierre Bruguière named Ile de France because it could not have been painted elsewhere, he said. The third belongs to Peggy Guggenheim, and was exhibited at the Tate with her collection (the Gros Volumes of Cahiers d'Art 1951). I had hoped the three pictures could be exhibited together. They never were ...
'When in 1943 I started again producing figures, I could not keep that as faithfully because the various studies after nature, and studies from these studies, were so absorbing and took more and more of my time and energy...'
[As for the development of his style in the 1930s] 'I went from simple to complex, from elementary to complete, from flat to shaded, from shaded to "modele". But at every stage kept precise elements of the previous stage.
'Ile de France comprises on the left an upright abstract figure from my year 34 opposed and composed to and with this [diagram] broad figure with "gros volumes"...
'Trying to achieve something as complete as possible, fully unrepresentative, until it created a figure so capable of figuration that the world fell into it as through an open window, and I could not resist anymore its appeal.'
The three large paintings of 1935 have many similarities in their forms and compositions, and could almost be regarded as variations on a theme. P.G. Bruguière states that 'Ile de France' was the first of the three, but the artist confirmed on 8 July 1973 that it was definitely the second.
When he went to America in 1936 to stay for a few years, he lent it to Raymond Queneau, the writer, who kept it until his definitive return in 1946.
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.359-60, reproduced p.359