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Jean Hélion

/Works and biography

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Equilibrium (Equilibre), 1933–34
Oil on canvas, 97.4 x 131.2 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 44
© Jean Hélion, by SIAE 2008


Between 1932 and 1935 Jean Hélion created a series of paintings exploring states of visual equilibrium. Generally he worked with drawings and oil studies before reaching the formal solutions of his large canvases. His concern in the present work is to establish a balance between the blocky, simple, essentially rectangular mass on the right with the more complex, more colorful, and varied forms on the left. The construction on the left, which is composed of overlapping and interpenetrating curves, bars, and lines, is not continuous. The multiple hues used at the left also generate visual complexity. The horizontal curves on the left all point to the central white void, which is embraced by the more rigidly horizontal dark blue and light green arms of the stable construction on the right. Vibrant red and orange bars unite the edges of the composition with central forms and bind together right and left halves. A state of visual balance is thus achieved without resorting to the purely rectilinear, often programmatic formulations of the De Stijl artists who had influenced Hélion. The Equilibrium series, embodying ideas of suspension and tension of two-dimensional forms, inspired Alexander Calder, who was contemporaneously developing his wind-driven mobiles.

credits: Hangar Design Group