Urgent Museum Notice

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva

1908–1992

Born in Lisbon, Vieira da Silva began studying drawing and painting at that city’s Academia das Belas Artes when she was only 11. At 16, she expanded her artistic interests to include the study of sculpture.

Three years later she moved to Paris. There, Vieira da Silva studied painting with Fernand Léger, sculpture with Antoine Bourdelle, and engraving with Stanley William Hayter, all renowned in their fields. She also created textile designs. In 1930, Vieira da Silva married the Hungarian painter Árpád Szenes. Aside from a brief sojourn back to Lisbon and a period spent in Brazil during World War II, Vieira da Silva continued to reside in Paris for the rest of her life.

By the late 1950s, Vieira da Silva had become internationally known for her dense and complex compositions, influenced by the art of Paul Cézanne and the fragmented forms, spatial ambiguities, and restricted palette of Cubism. She exhibited her work widely, winning a prize for painting at the Biennial in São Paolo in 1961.

Vieira da Silva was the first woman to receive the French Government’s Grand Prix Nationale des Arts in 1966. She was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1979. Marking Vieira da Silva’s 80th birthday in 1988, the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon and the Grand Palais in Paris presented a major retrospective of the artist’s work.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Maria Helena Vieira da Silva
  • Birth

    Lisbon, Portugal, 1908
  • Death

    Paris, 1992
  • Phonetic Spelling

    mah-REE-ah ay-LAY-nah vee-AY-rah dah SEEL-vah

Works by Maria Helena Vieira da Silva

The Town

With its irregular and atmospheric grids and brushwork, The Town illustrates the changes that took place in Maria Helena Vieira da Silva’s paintings in the early 1950s. Her early works feature clearly defined squares and rectangles, which are arranged in precise matrices reminiscent of the tilework associated with her native Portugal. But the lines and lozenge-shaped brushstrokes in The Town appear to shimmer and move...

Abrtact painting in the mid-century modern style presents a cityscape in whites, blacks, and neutral tones. A complex arrangement of small rectangles form a series of architectural patterns conveying the feel and excitement of a bustling town.