Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Paule Vezelay (1892-1984)   BIOGRAPHY

Tubes and Rubans
Framed (ref: 4541)

Signed and dated 1933 on verso

Oil on canvas, 9 1/2 x 16 in. ( 24 x 40.5 cm.)


Provenance: The Mayor Gallery;  Michael Parkin Fine Art
Paule Vezelay, in her own words ‘left London in 1926 and....lived in Paris because I (thought) my work (could) develop more freely there than elsewhere. My sympathy was with art of today which really exists and lives at its best Paris’. She added that ‘it was not until 1928 that I painted my first picture of objects which were purely imaginary and different from objects which I had actually seen. Grandually with its development my worked seemed to contain little trace of English artistic tradition, and my own English family name (Marjorie Watson-Williams) seemed tour of place on my canvases; it was then, in 1927 for purely aesthetic reasons and with no wish to change my nationality, that I adopted the pseudonym Madame Paule Vezelay, under which name I contiue to work’, (Paule Vezelay, undated sheet of notes, circa 1936) She recalled years later how she ‘met a great number of artists in Paris, almost everybody’: among them Picasso, Bragque, Gris, Kandinsky, Matisse, Miro, the Dalaunay’s, Arp and Taeber-Arp, Mondrian and Giacometti. ‘I was thrilled to be in Paris when all the giants were there; Braque and Picasso were doing some of their most vigorous work in the next street to my little studio…. Gradually, I became less interested in what I saw and more interested in angles and light.’ Although she had supporters in England, such as Paul Nash who admired her achievements, J.P Hodin pointed out in 1977 that’the reason why there was such a deloy in the recognition of Paule Vezelay’s qualities in England in comparion with the great prestige which she enjoyed abroad, lies to some extent in the shyness and modesty of her character and above all, in the pre-war lack of interest in avant-garde ideas in Englad, and last but not least, by the long sojourn of the artist in France. The thinly applied paint on a graduated background, found in Tubes and Ribbons, is typical of Vezaley ‘s paintings of the early 30’s. Choosing often to work in pastel on canvas Vezealy explored this effect further in works such as L’Arbre 1932, and Composition 1933. This contrasts with the hard solid colour fields she used as the decade progressed, though typically she retained the graduated backgrounds (three forms on yellow ground 1936). 1933 represented a tumultous year for Vezelay. In 1929 she had fallen in love with the prominent Surrealist Andre Masson – their passion culminated in April 1932 when they made a formal marriage contract which was left unfulfilled as their relationship disintegrated due to Masson’s violent outbursts.. After fleeing Mason Vezelay described this period as containing “the happiest moments of my life…. I shall never find them again …. I know all too well that from this moment onward my soul will seek yours, continually , and without hope.” The source of all of the above quotes is; Paule Vezaley and her circle, Paris and The South of France, England and Co, 2007. We are grateful to Jane England for assistance.

Paule Vezelay (1892-1984)

Paule Vézelay was born in England in 1892, but by the 1930s she had become an active member of the Parisian avant-garde after moving to France and adopting the name Paule Vézelay. She lived for several years with the Surrealist artist André Masson, and mixed with many of the most significant artists of pre-war Paris including Kandinsky, Miro, Mondrian, and her great friends Jean Arp and his wife Sophie Tauber-Arp. Her work is represented in museums and public collections in Britain and abroad including Tate; the British Museum; the Imperial War Museum; the National Portrait Gallery, London; the Victoria and Albert Museum; the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; the Kunst Museum, Basel; the Australian National Gallery; and the Arts Council of Great Britain.

Vézelay was invited to join the group Abstraction-Création in 1934 and exhibited in several significant pioneering exhibitions of non-figurative art in France, Italy and Holland. As her friend the British artist Paul Nash wrote in 1936, Vézelay ‘contributed steadily to the modern movement.’ Her early work was figurative, but apart from her Surrealist-inspired works from the 1930s and her wartime drawings, she became the first British artist to commit herself totally to the abstract movement.

In 1939 Vézelay returned to England, but continued to exhibit regularly in France after the war. In England, she almost disappeared from public view until the Tate Gallery retrospective exhibition of her work in 1983. Her reputation as ‘an innovator in non-figurative art’ had been noted by the critic William Lipke in 1965, and her series of thread and wire constructions, the Lines in Space that she began in 1935, had already been acknowledged as ‘a completely original and independent conception’. Lipke wrote that 'the current interest in British art of the Thirties has revealed to the public the work of lesser known artists of the time whose innovations were as startling as those of Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson… Madame Paule Vézelay is an excellent case in point.'

England & Co have represented the Estate of Paule Vézelay since 1988, and have held several exhibitions of her work, most recently in May 2007 with an exhibition of Paule Vézelay and some of the artists from her circle, such as André Masson and Jean Arp. A 2004 retrospective encompassed early figurative pictures of circus, theatre and concert scenes; works exploring Surrealism; early abstract studies; major abstract paintings of the 1930s to 1960s; textile designs; and the constructions, pastels and paintings of her mature abstract style. In The Dictionary of Abstract Painting, Michel Seuphor wrote that ‘few artists illustrate as well as Paule Vézelay the many-sidedness of art. She has practised painting, sculpture, collages, compositions with stretched strings, drawings, engraving. Her work has a discreet charm and elegant purity.’

See all works by Paule Vezelay