Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (French, 1992)

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (French/Portuguese, 1908–1992) was an Abstract painter who established her career in France. Born in Lisbon, she attended Lisbon’s Academy of Fine Arts, where she studied with painter Fernand Léger (French, 1881–1955) and produced textiles, sculpture, ceramics, and paintings. In 1928, she moved to Paris, where she was inspired by the works of Impressionist Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867–1947), and began to exhibit her own abstract paintings, notable for their treatment of perspective and space. To escape World War II, Vieira da Silva and her husband, Hungarian painter Arpad Szenes (French, 1897–1985), fled Paris for Rio de Janeiro, where she lived for seven years. After the war, she returned to Paris, where she remained for the rest of her life, achieving citizenship in 1956. Her style matured during this period, as she painted dense compositions with fragmented images reminiscent of cityscapes, gaining critical attention and fame for these works. In 1969, the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris held a solo retrospective of her works, which subsequently toured Europe. From 1970 until her death in 1992, Vieira da Silva shifted her focus to work primarily in tapestry.

Timeline

1928
Moves to Paris, acquires French Citizenship
1933
First one-woman exhibition in Paris
1940
Moves to Rio de Janeiro
1956
Wins the Gran Prix des Beaux Arts at the Biennale in Sao Paulo