Maria Helena Vieira da Silva

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Self-portrait, 1942.

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (13 June 1908 – 6 March 1992) was a Portuguese-French abstractionist painter.

Life[edit]

Vieira da Silva was born in Lisbon, Portugal. At the age of eleven she had begun seriously studying drawing and painting at that city's Academia de Belas-Artes. In her teen years she studied painting with Fernand Léger, sculpture with Antoine Bourdelle, and engraving with Stanley William Hayter, all masters in their respective fields. She also created textile designs.

By 1930 Vieira da Silva was exhibiting her paintings in Paris; that same year she married the Hungarian painter Árpád Szenes. After a brief sojourn back in Lisbon and a period spent in Brazil during World War II (1940–1947), Vieira da Silva lived and worked in Paris the rest of her life. She adopted French citizenship in 1956. Vieira da Silva received the French government's Grand Prix National des Arts in 1966, the first woman so honored. She was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1979. She died in Paris, France on 6 March 1992.

Work[edit]

The Corridor, oil on canvas, 1950, 64.8 x 91.1 cm, Tate Gallery, London

By the late 1950s Vieira da Silva was internationally known for her dense and complex compositions, influenced by the art of Paul Cézanne and the fragmented forms, spatial ambiguities, and restricted palette of cubism and abstract art. She is considered to be one of the most important Post-War abstract artists although she is not a "pure" abstract painter. Her work is related to French Tachisme, American Abstract expressionism, and Surrealism—as were many of her contemporaries who were painting in Post-War Paris during the mid to late 1940s and early 1950s. Her paintings often resemble mazes, cities seen in profile or from high above or even library shelves in what seems to be an allegory to a never-ending search for Knowledge or the Absolute.

Árpád Szenes-Vieira da Silva Foundation, Lisbon

She exhibited her work widely, winning a prize for painting at the São Paulo Art Biennial in São Paulo in 1961.

She decorated in 1988 the new Cidade Universitária subway station of Lisbon with azulejo panels.

In November 1994, the Árpád Szenes-Vieira da Silva Foundation was inaugurated in Lisbon, a museum that displays a large collection of paintings by both artists.

Her name sometimes appears written as Maria Elena Vieira da Silva, but the correct version, in Portuguese, is Maria Helena Vieira da Silva.

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

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