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Jean Hélion - Prose of the world

Jean Hélion - Prose of the world

The Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris is presenting a retrospective of the painter and intellectual Jean Hélion (1904–1987), whose oeuvre spans the whole of the 20th century. Hélion was one of the pioneers of abstraction, which he brought to America in the 1930s before moving on to a personal form of figuration just prior to the Second World War.

He returned to France after the War and was hailed in the 1960s by the new generation of Narrative Figuration painters, among them Gilles Aillaud and Eduardo Arroyo. His career was marked by numerous exhibitions in French and international galleries and museums, including MAM in 1977 and 1984–85, with the most recent retrospective held at the Centre Pompidou in 2004. Despite its sweep and its singularity, his oeuvre remains little known. Chronologically presented, The Prose of the World brings together over 150 rarely shown works – 103 paintings, 50 drawings, notebooks and a mass of documentary material – from major French and international museums and many private collections.

Born in Normandy in 1904, Hélion initially opted for architectural studies in Paris. After a brief spell as a painter in Montmartre in 1929, he joined Théo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian in a move towards geometric abstraction. A member of the Art Concret group, he also helped found the Abstraction-Création collective, home to the leading abstractionists of the interwar period. A friend of Calder, Arp and Giacometti, he was also close to Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp and Victor Brauner. In 1929 he began his series of Notebooks, reflections on painting that he kept up until 1984. He was also close to the writers of his time: Francis Ponge, Raymond Queneau, René Char, André du Bouchet and others, who remained part of his artistic vocation. In 1934 Hélion moved to the United States, where he became friends with Duchamp and one of the country's foremost abstractionists. A leading figure on the American art scene, he also served as an advisor to America's most eminent collectors

(*extract from the official press release)

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