Vieira da Silva, Maria Elena (1908—)

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Vieira da Silva, Maria Elena (1908—)

Portuguese-born French painter . Name variations: Maria Helena. Born on June 13, 1908, in Lisbon, Portugal; only child of Marcos Vieira da Silva (an economist) and Maria (Graca) Vieira da Silva; educated in Lisbon; studied in Paris, learning sculpture with Bourdelle and Despiau, engraving with Hayter, and painting with Friesz and Léger; married Arpad Szénes (a painter), on February 22, 1930.

Selected works:

Forest of Errors (1941); The City (1948); Morning Mist (1952); Iron Bridges (1953); Theatre (1953); Nocturnal Space (1954); Overhead Railway (1955).

Portuguese-born painter Maria Elena Vieira da Silva was born in 1908 and grew up in her native Lisbon, the only child of economist Marco Vieira da Silva and Maria Graca Vieira da Silva ; one of her relatives was the founder of O Seculo. She traveled extensively with her family, and her mother, aunt, and uncle all encouraged her toward a career in painting, leaving her in Paris at the age of 19 to study sculpture with Bourdelle and Despiau, engraving with Hayter, and painting with Friesz and Léger.

In Paris, Vieira da Silva married Hungarian painter Arpad Szénes in 1930 and held the first of her several one-woman shows in 1933. Her reputation was established early in her career by a semi-abstract style notable for its soft colors, gentle light, and often poetic moods. Vieira da Silva believed that a painting should "have its heart, its nervous system, its bones, and its circulation. In its movements it should be like a person and have the tempo of a person's movements."

Vieira da Silva spent World War II in Brazil, living from 1939 to 1947 in Rio de Janeiro, but she spent the vast majority of her adult life in France, ultimately becoming a French citizen. While in Rio, she continued to paint, creating murals for the University of Agriculture, until her return to Paris in 1947.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Vieira da Silva exhibited at the Venice and Sao Paolo Biennales, as well as in London, Paris, and New York City. After her 1956 American show, the New York Herald Tribune described her as "one of the most interesting talents to develop in Europe since the end of the war." Vieira da Silva's work is highly collectible and hangs in major museums and galleries around the world. A typical Vieira da Silva work, Overhead Railway (1955), can be seen in the Nordsheim-Westfälen Kunstsammlung in Düsseldorf.


Current Biography. NY. H.W. Wilson, 1958.

Paula Morris , D.Phil., Brooklyn, New York