Lot 5
  • 5

Jean Hélion

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jean Hélion
  • Équilibre
  • Signed Hélion and dated 36 on the reverse
  • Oil on canvas
  • 44 7/8 by 57 7/8 in.
  • 114 by 147 cm


Private Collection, Rockbridge Baths, Virginia (acquired by descent from the artist)

Acquired from the above


Paris, Galerie Cahiers d’Art, Jean Hélion, 1936

New York, Gallery Valentine, Jean Hélion, 1936

Los Angeles, The Putzel Gallery, Jean Hélion, 1937

Richmond, The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Hélion–Daura, 1942                                                 

New York, Art of this Century, Jean Hélion. Paintings 1933-1939, 1943

Paris, Galeries Nationales d'Exposition du Grand Palais, Hélion: cent tableaux, 1928-1970, 1970-71, n.n., illustrated in the catalogue

Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus; Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris & Lisbon, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Hélion: peintures et dessins 1925-1983, 1984-85, no. 51, illustrated in the catalogues

Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou & Barcelona, Museo Picasso, Jean Hélion, 2004, n.n., illustrated in the catalogue


Philippe Dagen, Hélion, Vanves, 2004, no. 61, illustrated p. 107

Jacqueline Hélion, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint de Jean Hélion, (http://www.helion-cat-rais.com), no. 529

Catalogue Note

Équilibre is one of the most important pictures from Hélion’s renowned abstract phase. Hélion first experimented with abstraction in the late 1920s and adopted the rectilinear abstract techniques found in the work of fellow artists Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg and others involved in the De Stijl movement. Following the dispantion of the De Stijl movement in 1928, Hélion became involved with the Abstraction-Création association, a group who counted Jean Arp, Wassily Kandinsky, Albert Gleizes and Kurt Schwitters among its members. The present work, painted in 1936, dates from the apex of Hélion’s involvement with the Abstraction-Création movement.

Abstraction-Création championed abstract art in an effort to counteract the Surrealist group’s emphasis on figuration throughout the 1920s. Meyer Schapiro spoke of Hélion’s important role in this counteractive movement, naming him “the outstanding abstract painter of the young generation of American and European artists. Hélion was a central and tireless proponent of non-representational art" (as quoted in Jean Hélion. Works 1935-1939 (exhibition catalogue), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 2004, p. 190). 

Encouraged by this supportive milieu of Abstraction-Création artists, Hélion moved away from the rigid austerity of Neo-Plasticism and adapted his painting to a sensuous abstraction that incorporated curved lines and volumetric forms. A striking example of the artist’s distinct brand of abstraction in the 1930s, Équilibre is composed of a series of overlapping and interpenetrating curves, bars and lines. The innovative amalgamation of form, space and color imbue the canvas with a sense of movement.  The composition, with its vibrant overlayering of forms, ultimately demonstrates why Hélion’s work remains, as Meyer Schapiro declared, “one of the most highly esteemed and best controlled of its genre” (ibid., 190).

Équilibre belongs to the series of pictures that the artist created during his time in the United States (1936-1940), and was completed in his studio in Rockbridge Baths, Virginia, a property that remains with his family today.  This picture has remained with the artist's family until the present day.