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Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (1908–1992)

The Theatre of Gérard Philipe, 1975

In opposition to what its title might lead one to conclude, this work completed in 1975 by Maria Helena Vieira da Silva is anything but figurative. Although the ties between this Portuguese-born artist and the wife of the actor Gérard Philipe are well known, the theatre of the painting’s title is only evident through its highly architectural lines. Through a subtle combination of distinct lines and oblique perspectives that scale the depths of the canvas, Vieira da Silva simultaneously strives to capture a sense of place while expressing an interior emotion, a feeling. Lines held a singular attraction for this artist during her career, arising from her fascination with their most apparent examples in the real world (streets, cities, scaffolding, suspension bridges) which are distilled, little by little, to their essence, losing their figurative aspect to serve as an abstract expression of space. Vieira da Silva’s painting is abstract in the way that the musical universe, with which she maintained close ties, may be considered as abstract. Her scores include not only notes, but rhythms, intervals, and sudden changes in dynamics.

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (1908–1992)
 

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, The Theatre of Gérard Philipe, 1975. Oil on canvas, Musée Unterlinden, Colmar.