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Jean Hélion

Rouge Brillant


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The French artist Jean Hélion was a founding member, together with Theo Van Doesburg, of the geometric abstraction group Art Concret in 1930; the group was later succeeded by Abstraction- Création. Rouge Brillant was developed during this period and shows a cautiously balanced composition consisting of bold red, orange, blue, and yellow forms that command attention. Some forms are flat, others more modular. Angular brushstrokes create a striking interplay of shapes and textures, evoking a sense of movement. The deliberate use of diagonals and intersecting curved lines adds a dynamic tension to the composition. Within this abstract arrangement, viewers can discern fragmented forms that suggest urban landscapes or architectural elements.

In addition to his artistic pursuits, Hélion also wrote extensively about art and his experiences. His book They Shall Not Have Me (1943) chronicles his time as a prisoner during World War II, including his capture by the Germans in 1940 and his successful escape and subsequent arrival in the United States in 1942. [Permanent collection label, 2023]

  • Artist Jean Hélion (French, 1904–1987)
  • Title Rouge Brillant
  • Date 1938
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions unframed | 46 3/16 x 35 1/4 in.
  • Credit line University purchase, Kende Sale Fund, 1946
  • Object number WU 3777
  • Currently on View Gertrude Bernoudy Gallery, Room 4

Artists in Exile: European Surrealists in the US during and after World War II
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 09/01/2023

Picasso to Pollock: H.W. Janson and the Legacy of Modern Art at Washington University in St. Louis
Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum (San Antonio, Texas), 08/17/2004 - 10/24/2004

Opening Exhibition of Mark C. Steinberg Memorial Hall
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 04/29/1960

Paul Rosenberg and Co., New York

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