Double Rhythm: Writings About Painting (Artists & Art)
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Soon after the young painter’s arrival in Paris from the provinces, he began a literary-art magazine; he wrote polemical articles as a leading avant-garde abstractionist; he wrote about the great tradition of figure painting while still painting abstractions; and he wrote journals, notes on studio practice, pieces about the role of the artist in society, and much more. His prolificacy is made more extraordinary because he wrote in two languages—having lived in the United States for some years, he wrote many of his articles in English for an American and British audience.
This volume collects, for the first time, the diverse writings by Hélion that appeared in print originally in English, including “The Abstract Artist in Society,” “Poussin, Seurat, and Double Rhythm,” “Objects for a Painter,” and many more. Double Rhythm is sure to become essential reading for art historians and painters.
bakery. Then he counted them, counted us, and bolted the doors. They were so elaborately barred with heavy iron that there was no chance of our sneaking out and picking up our clothes. As an extra precaution, the bakery door was locked and padlocked, and the guards slept in the attic above. Owing to an unfortunate effect of our potato diet, each of us had to get up two, three, or four times during the night. I tried hard to behave correctly at first, but it proved impossible. My arms and legs
bundles of rye through the threshing machine, or alternating a bite of bacon with a gulp of ersatz coffee, the peasants talked about the potatoes. “They are coming on! They will soon be ready to dig!” One evening all the prisoners were taken to the blacksmith shop, and there each of us received a short three-tined hoe newly reshaped, a little wire basket, and an old sack. At seven the next morning, we lined up apprehensively on the edge of a hundred-acre potato field. Tapageur on top of his
talk. I helped him out of the way with his numerous pieces of baggage, and he informed me that he was going home on his semiannual leave, for ten days only. I told him that I was in the same case, but going in the direction of Brussels. “Then,” he said, “we’ll travel together as far as Berlin. Let’s have a glass of beer.” Did the Alsatian really mean what he had said: “At 8:30 by the Catholic church?” I tramped alone along the river. What a pity! Anyway, I wasn’t caught yet. I had foreseen
Creation and the Void whose dizziness affects all of us. The painter works on horseback, the reins of color in his hand, his head in the wind of ideas, his eyes wide open on the world. Without knowing what his goal is to be. Is it anything but life? The most different kinds of artists are occupied with nothing else. Some give it color, others madness; a few give it meaning. To figure is to try to grasp it in its entirety. Everything must constantly be thought out again, re-formulated, re-done.
remains but a magma in which a spectral image floats. Then, without regrets and singing as loud as you can, work inside it, with broad, precise strokes, until a real work of art is born, no longer seductive, but with everything enunciated on the highest level of your mind. And you emerge feeling dead-tired but happy. Art and Literature, March 1964 Translated from the French by John Ashbery Jean Hélion, Monument for a Butcher, 1963. Acrylic on canvas, 77 x 51 inches. Gyorgy Kepes included