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Ile de France

Jean Helion

Ile de France

Jean Helion
  • Date: 1935
  • Style: Abstract Art
  • Genre: abstract
  • Media: oil

Ile de France is one of Jean Hélion’s most important abstract paintings and, at two metres across, it was clearly envisaged as a substantial piece. Typical of his work in the mid-1930s is the disposition of variously sized and coloured planes across a relatively neutral background. For the large scale of Ile de France Hélion introduced an additional blue background plane that occupies part of the upper half of the composition. The effect is to reinforce the sense of implied space, within which the apparently overlapping planes mark out a rhythm. Four of the floating elements enhance this further through a modulated shading that suggests that they are convex forms within this shallow space. This recurrent device related to Hélion’s interest in sculptural reliefs on ancient architecture (Jean Hélion, Lettres d’Amérique: Correspondance avec Raymond Queneau 1934-1967, Paris 1996, p.81). Closely comparable conjunctions of elements to those in Ile de France are found in various preparatory ink and wash drawings of 1933-5, notable one of those known as Large Volumes, 1935 (Musée National d’art moderne, Paris, reproduced in Hélion: Dessins 1930-1978, exhibition catalogue, Musée National d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris 1979, p.19). When asked about the title many years later, he explained that Ile de France (referring to the region around Paris) was so named by a friend, the collector Pierre Bruguière, ‘because it could not have been painted elsewhere’ (letter to Tate, 29 October 1965). (Matthew Gale)

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