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Maria Helena Vieira da Silva
L’INCENDIE II OU LE FEU (THE BURNING II OR THE FIRE)
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1,200,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 1,635,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
29
Maria Helena Vieira da Silva
L’INCENDIE II OU LE FEU (THE BURNING II OR THE FIRE)
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Artist's Resale Right
Purchase of lots marked with this symbol will be subject to the payment of the artist's resale right.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,200,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 1,635,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva
1908 - 1992
L’INCENDIE II OU LE FEU (THE BURNING II OR THE FIRE)
signed and dated 44
oil on canvas
81 by 100 cm. 31 7/8 by 39 1/4 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Collection of the Artist
Private Collection, Paris (acquired as a gift from the artist circa 1990)
Jeanne Bucher Gallery, Paris (acquired from the above in 2003)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007

Exhibited

Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny-Musée Maillol, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, March - June 1999, p. 53, illustrated in colour
Lisbon, Museu Coleção Berardo; and Valencia, Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Intuition and Structure: From Torres-García to Vieira da Silva, 1929-1949, December 2008 - May 2009, p. 28, illustrated in colour

Literature

Nelson Alfredo Aguilar, Figuration et spatialisation dans la peinture moderne brésilienne: le séjour de Vieira da Silva au Brésil (1940-1947), Lyon 1984, pp. 141-42, no. XCVIII, illustrated 
Guy Weelen and Jean-François Jaeger, Vieira da Silva: Monographie, Geneva 1993, p. 183, illustrated in colour
Guy Weelen and Jean-François Jaeger, Vieira da Silva: Catalogue Raisonné, Geneva 1994, p. 87, no. 427, illustrated
Gisela Rosenthal, Vieira da Silva, 1908-1992: The Quest for Unknown Space, Germany 1998, p. 32, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

"A picture should have its heart, its nervous system, its bones and its circulation. It should resemble a person in its movements."

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva cited in: Guy Weelen and Jean-François Jaeger, Vieira da Silva, Geneva 1993, p. 91.

Composed during the Second World War in 1944, L’Incendie II ou le Feu (The Burning II or The Fire) constitutes one of the most important paintings from Maria Helena Vieira da Silva’s acclaimed oeuvre. Of great personal significance, the painting remained in the artist's collection until the early 1990s, when she gifted the work to one of her closest friends. L’Incendie II ou le Feu was executed during the Portuguese artist’s exile in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she fled in 1940 with her Jewish husband –  the painter Árpád Szenes – to escape Nazi persecution, returning to Paris only in 1947. During this period, Vieira da Silva produced just twenty-one canvases, three of which were executed in 1944. Dark and introspective, these paintings became visual diaries through which the artist could reflect upon the war that was ravaging Europe, as much as her own turbulent state of mind.

Charged with a vital sense of urgency, the present painting depicts a simultaneously iridescent and disquieting scene in which countless figures and houses morph into flickering flames. Hovering between the realms of figuration and abstraction, L’Incendie II ou le Feu at once calls to mind the apocalyptic visions of Hieronymus Bosch, the spiritual hallucinations of El Greco, and the gestural intensity of Jackson Pollock. The world ablaze in a rich palette of golden yellow, amber, umber, burnt orange, gas blue, searing white and charcoal black, L’Incendie II ou le Feu powerfully offers a tormented vision of war at a time of global suffering, anguish and atrocity. Claustrophobic in its dense rendering of pictorial space, the present work is deeply influenced by the European Cubists and Futurists' pioneering treatment of depth and perspective. The result is a world marred and fractured by the ravages of conflict and warfare. In the words of curator Gisela Rosenthal, “In these disaster pictures, [Vieira da Silva] practically forced figurative elements into her spatial system, despite the formal strains that this involved. She tightened the tension created by the latent contradiction between the real space, represented, and space as an abstract entity in her art almost to breaking point” (Gisela Rosenthal, Vieira da Silva, 1908-1992: The Quest for Unknown Space, Cologne 2005, p. 48).

Born in Lisbon in 1908, Vieira da Silva was only nineteen years old when she decided to go to Paris to pursue her passion for painting. In Paris she found the excitement she was after; art seemed to be in constant evolution and development, with new movements and –isms being created almost simultaneously. She discovered Picasso’s and Cezanne’s Cubism, where reality was augmented and rendered more palpable by introducing different views into the same picture plane. A study trip to Italy, where she saw the frescoes by the masters of the Trecento and Quattrocento, allowed her to fully understand the principles she would go on to shatter herself. From then onwards the artist developed her own visual language, where architectural landscapes teeming with energy perfectly encapsulated the Zeitgeist of the new century in what was, at the time, the artistic capital of the world. Recognised as one of the most important war-time and post-war painters of the Twentieth Century, Vieira da Silva’s works are today held in important collections throughout the world, including the Tate, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

In L’Incendie II ou le Feu, the picture plane seems to fracture and crack, presenting a composition that is as compelling as it is disorienting. At the very centre of the fiery tumult, a dazzling white figure seems to radiate an ethereal light, as if in promise of new life emerging from the depths of destruction. A powerful emblem of hope for the future, Vieira da Silva in fact reworked this figure slightly following the end of the war and her return to Paris, symbolically brightening and intensifying its glow. Meticulously rendered, the artist dexterously allows the viewer a glimpse into her creative process, with each brushstroke eloquently articulating a helmeted soldier, a sweeping tendril, a burning flame. As Vieira da Silva would explain: "In adding little stain after little stain, laboriously, like a bee, the picture makes itself. A picture should have its heart, its nervous system, its bones and its circulation. It should resemble a person in its movements" (Maria Helena Vieira da Silva cited in: Guy Weelen and Jean-François Jaeger, Vieira da Silva, Geneva 1993, p. 91). Simultaneously melding elements of Cubism, Futurism, and Constructivism into a unique pictorial syntax, whilst poignantly contending with the horror and brutality of war, L’Incendie II ou le Feu is a potent work from the apex of Vieira da Silva’s pioneering oeuvre.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London