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Everyday Mythologies exhibition - Jean Hélion





75008, FRANCE 


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From March 22, 2024, the « Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris » is organizing a retrospective exhibition of the work of Jean Hélion (1904-1987). To celebrate this exceptional cultural event, Galerie Dumas + Limbach - Fine Art is pleased to announce its temporary exhibition "Mythologies du quotidien", dedicated to the last twenty years of the French artist's life. 

Hélion is fascinated by the spectacle of life. His interest is in the everyday, which he magnifies and cultivates.


For the man who dreamed of "a Sistine chapel in the costumes and forms of today", markets and scenes of life are his first choice.

A mythology of the everyday is thus elaborated through his creations. Fish in a stall, billiard players, lobsters, lovers in a patch of grass - anything that might resemble the banality of our lives becomes conducive to the legend of his art.


Jean Hélion selects "Witnesses and actors in this modern fresco" of which he is the builder.


In the 1970s, public spaces, the world of markets and the Puces de Saint-Ouen flea market attracted his full attention. The chromatic diversity of these places gave him great freedom in the use of tonalities.


Le marché, 1976

Watercolor, pastels, charcoal and gouache on paper

Signed and dated lower right

Mounted on canvas

Unframed: H 73cm x W 110 cm
Framed: H 90 cm x W 125 cm

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Le billard, 1976

Pastel on colored paper mounted on canvas

Signed and dated lower right

Mounted on canvas

Unframed: H 75 cm x W 109 cm
Framed: H 89 cm x W 123 cm

For someone who is renowned for his abstraction and his membership of the Abstraction-Création movement, we might have seen this return to the figurative as paradoxical, devoid of meaning or conceptual cohesion.

But this is not the case. Hélion went against the wishes of the market, the advice of gallery owners and the expectations of his most loyal collectors. In 1934, due to the dogmatism of its members, all of whom were hostile to any figurative allusion (notably Auguste Herbin), Hélion left Abstraction-Creation.


Dernier acte , 1982

Acrylic on canvas

Unframed :H 199,5 x L 154 cm

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In 1946, on his return to France, he definitively abandoned abstraction in favor of resolutely figurative painting. The practice of drawing became fundamental. After 1968, the painter finally achieved a synthesis of abstract geometry and figuration. His works explore contemporary rituals and the founding myths of the collective imagination. His aim is to suggest what lies hidden in our everyday actions. In a way, he is bringing ancient mythologies into dialogue with those of his own time. Specifically, in "Couple au Jardin des Tuileries" and "Monument sur l'Herbe", he isolates characters emblematic of modern life: couples embracing and kissing become figures of desire and love.


Couple au jardin des tuileries, 1972

Watercolor, pastels, charcoal and gouache on paper

H 50 cm  x W 65 cm

“ Redrawn. Drawing can be loaded with meaning. Draw for a long time. Let every main element (arm, leg, head) and every detail (folds, fingers, nose) and every fragment (eyebrow, pimple, eyelid, nail) be placed, rhythmically ordered, charged ”



Quotation from Jean Hélion 24 OCT. 1947.

Jean Hélion (1904-1987), born Jean Bichier, began his school career by studying architecture in Paris, while at the same time showing a keen interest in poetry. He turned to painting in 1923. He spent a lot of time at the Louvre, where he studied Champaigne and Poussin in particular. In 1925, thanks to collector Georges Bine, he devoted himself entirely to painting.

A French painter with a complex artistic career, he was instrumental in introducing abstract art to the United States. He initially focused on volume, movement and rhythm, and became close to Mondrian, Léger and then Calder. It was through contact with painters such as Joaquin Torres Garcia and Perre Créixams that the artist discovered Cubism in 1926. Jean Hélion held his first exhibition in 1932, presenting mostly abstractions. After a first stay in the United States in 1932, he became one of the major players in abstraction, both as a theorist and practitioner. He exhibited in NewYork.

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Jean Hélion

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