1904 Birth of Jean Bichier, known as Hélion, in Normandy in very modest circumstances.
1913 First attempts at coloring.
1920 Brief studies in chemistry, searching to find the reality of things behind their appearance, while also writing poetry.
1921 Designer-apprentice to a Parisian architect, he traveled about Paris taking measurements, beginning of his passion for street scenes. Writes poetry. Becomes friendly with many poets, but finally chooses painting. Visits the Louvre regularly, especially the works of Poussin and Philippe de Champaigne.
1922 First paintings, thick and figurative until 1929 : especially portraits and still lifes.
In agreement with his family, and particularly with Jacqueline his wife, we are beginning to show the work of Jean Hélion in the gallery. My interest in this artist dates from long ago. Hélion is the first artist I collected, long before opening the gallery. I have always lived surrounded by his work, have followed his exhibitions, and have read attentively all the books that have been devoted to him.
Hélion is a major artist of the 20th century, who has been exhibited at Beaubourg, the Modern Art Museum of Paris, the Grand Palais, Lenback haus in Munich, the Guggenheim in Venice, the Peggy Guggenheim museum in New York, and many other museums, notably in the United States, China, and England. His name is well known. He is admired by many artists of his generation, Giacometti, and Balthus in particular, and younger artists like Arroyo, Aillaud, Raysse and Télémaque.
His abstract paintings, created in the 1930’s in the United States are well known and recognized. Hélion was an important personality in the art world overseas. But many in France and in the USA couldn’t forgive his return to figurative painting in 1939, as if it was a sort of treason, though this evolution was foreseeable: Volumes suggesting the human form began appearing as early as 1933. He himself announced his future path – all the stages, with astonishing precision as early as 1936 (see our biography). And with exception to the 1950’s, most of his figurative works are expressed by geometrical forms, or rely on architectural designs.
The abundance and the complexity of Hélion’s work, including, and especially the late years are still largely unknown.
Reproductions of some of the 143 works in the Centre Pompidou’s collections:
Journalier, 1947 / Nu barré, 1949 / A rebours, vers 1947 / Chose vue encore, 1983 / Jean Hélion évadé, en route de Poméranie vers Paris, 1974 / Au cycliste, 1939 / Holocaustes, 1977 / Nu et pots à fleurs, 1947 / Nature morte, 1946 / Mains d’allumeur, 1939
Works from the collections of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Nu renversé, 1946 / Grande mannequinerie, 1951 / L’aveugle, 1958 / Toits et murs, 1959 / Le chanteur Robert Droux, 1959 / Les toits, 1960 / Terre labourée, 1961 / La voiture de fleurs et le boucher, 1964 / Trois araignées de mer “Sortie de p…”, 1976 /Portrait de famille, 1982