Your currently viewing RAW Modern | Switch to RAW Contemporary

Paule Vézelay (1892 - 1984)

Paysage, Three Horses, 1929

Catalogue essay by Blanche Llewellyn

Paule Vézelay, born Majorie Watson-Williams, changed her name to obscure both her nationality and gender. She also felt her new moniker better suited the modernism of her practice. A British artist, she embarked on her career as a figurative painter but during her residency in Paris, her so-called country of adoption, from 1926 to 1939, she transitioned from figurative to abstract painting. In France, she became closely associated with André Masson, Jean Arp, and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and in 1934, she joined the avant-garde group Abstraction-Création.

Paysage, Three Horses is typical of Vezelay’s work from the late 1920s, with its semi-automatic technique and semi- abstract, linear motifs. It was painted the year she resided with André Masson – he was soon to be divorced and she was accepted by his family and even introduced by them as “Madame Masson”.

Their relationship forested a mutual influence on their artistic development (In Masson’s works, such as In the Cave painted 30-years later in 1957, the inspiration of Vezelay can still arguably be felt .)

The much-publicised discovery of Palaeolithic-era cave drawings in the Atxurra caves of northern Spain in 1929 undoubtedly influenced both the landscape, horses and drawing style of this work. Vézelay admired the raw, unfiltered nature of these artworks – primal instincts and emotions – and aura of mystery –which resonates with the surrealist’s quest to unlock the mysteries of the human psyche.

x W91.4cm
Signed, titled and dated on a label to the reverse. Oil on canvas
Vézelay, Paule

Paule Vézelay (1892 - 1984)

Paule Vézelay (née Marjorie Watson-Williams) studied at Bristol School of Art, London School of Art and Chelsea Polytechnic. She first exhibited in London in 1921 and joined the London Group the next year. In 1926, she moved to Paris and adopted the name Paule Vezelay, which – despite the moniker’s distinctly French nature – she claimed was “for purely aesthetic reasons”. Closely associated with André Masson (1896–1987) (with whom she lived in Paris for four years), Jean Arp (1886–1966), Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889–1943) and Alberto Giacometti (1901 – 1996) during this period, by the early 1930s Vézelay’s work had become increasingly abstract, and she joined Abstraction-Création in 1934. One of only a few British members, she was committed to international, non- representational art. She returned to London at the outbreak of WWII and experimented with new artistic forms, including reliefs, painting and textiles, some of which were shown at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1968. A retrospective exhibition of her work was held at the Tate Gallery in 1983.