Jean Hélion (1904 - 1987)

Composition bleue

Blue Composition
    Oil on canvas
116 × 89 cm
Signatures and Inscriptions
Numbered, signed and inscribed ‘n. 166 / Hélion / commencé à Paris / le 8 mai 38 / Terminé en / Virginie le 5 déc. 1938’ (on the verso)

Jacqueline Hélion (the artist’s wife)

Galerie Karl Flinker, Paris

Private collection, since 1981


Paris, Grand Palais, Hommage à Christian et Yvonne Zervos, 11 December 1970 - 18 January 1971

Andros, Museum of Contemporary Art, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Glancing at the Century, 28 June - 20 September 1998, p. 108, ill. p. 109

Current location
Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens
Floor 1st
Tour Guide Code
Audio Guide

Although a leading figure of abstraction both at artistic and theoretical level (as a co-founder of Concrete Art group which evolved and subsequently was called the Abstraction – Creation group), from 1933 Jean Hélion gradually distanced himself from this form of art. He rather took an interest in more natural forms, letting his compositions be invaded by curves visible in nature. Later on, curves made way for more condensed forms, more emphasized volumes. The third dimension began to appear, allowing to unveil the first drafts of human or nature-like figures. Thanks to dark backgrounds and colour modulations, he created depth and reintroduced through it perspective. His colour palette changed as well: it became more complex while heading towards more mixed, and therefore milder tones. One is surprised to identify, here and there, parts of the human body such as limbs and heads.

Blue Composition, a sublime work of that period, carried out between Paris and the painter’s studio in Virginia, USA, makes no exception to this new rule. An enormous face seems to arise with the right eye open, the left one closed and a white mouth covered with black. This first draft of portrayal in no way should make us forget the purely abstract nature of this painting. However, the skilful insertion of anthropomorphism that the painter performs therein, justifies the existence of these a priori irregular forms.

Blue composition is distinguished by a mastery of the stroke, the colour and the form. Hélion, despite his colleagues’ influence, had moved towards an entirely personal way of painting, which attracts as much as it intrigues. The serene aspect of his compositions, where nature and painting have found a completely innovative balance, in any way reveals the inner tumult that their creator was going through. His quest for a pictorial ideal, which had always been accompanied by the search for the ideal of humanity itself, cannot come to terms with the rise of a political turmoil that would soon set Europe on fire. Blue composition serves as a farewell to this still falsely trouble-free pre-war world, devoured by concern but supported by hope.



Jean Hélion
(1904 - 1987)
First Name
Last Name
Couterne, France, 1904
Paris, France, 1987