There are artists’ couples, united by the destiny of an encounter, whose way of life and work is lived as self-evidence and as a resonant echo and who know that painting is their act of love. Vieira da Silva (1908-1992), freshly arrived in Paris from her native Portugal in January 1928, met the Hungarian painter Arpad Szenes (1897-1985), the day after her enrolment at the Academy of the Grande Chaumière. This encounter provokes in Szenes a real love at first sight because of the gaze of Vieira that he considers as being different from all the others.
He is the first to notice her particular drawings, perhaps even their intention, and is the first to encourage her. In Paris, they both recognize themselves as following the way of Cezanne and of the School of Paris rather than in that of the Bauhaus. The encounter with Jeanne Bucher, which they affectionately name «Notre-Dame de Paris», is decisive because she exhibits the work of the two artists, from the Thirties on, in her Parisian gallery, and the promotion of their work is still active today in the gallery.
Arpad Szenes and Vieira da Silva experienced their life together and this day-to-day shared life is expressed in a multitude of portraits of each other, where each one, in a singular style, is seeking the other. In 1930, the Villa des Camelias unites, in the same studio, their destiny as painters and as husband and wife. By painting her space unfolded to infinity, all in resonances and projections, Vieira da Silva weaves her web, made of uncertainties and doubts, striving not to lose the thread of her instinct, the only guide to her secret exploration. The figures of cards, the chess-boards, the doors, the bridges, the libraries, serve as pretexts, as paths of approach to this journey through the invisible, to this quest for the pictorial grail towards the transcendence of a luminous issue.
The exterior and interior being deeply united in Vieira, her several shirts and skirts with rhombus and plaids seem to project the entire artist in the mesh of her canvas, of which she is incontestably a part. This is what Arpad Szenes will not fail to immortalize in his paintings, depicting his wife painting her own canvases, thus plunging us into the abyss of his reflections and the depth of his research through the vision of the infinite love he carries for his wife. If the painting of Vieira da Silva is a labyrinth of uncertainty guided by the instinct of an evidence that it unfolds to infinity, the Arpad Szenes’ painting is nevertheless of a very different nature. It has the detachment of a wide scope vision, the imprint of infinite wisdom with a generous and natural humanity. His landscapes are shores, allusive meditations, elongated reveries, saudades of horizons, as well as memories of contemplation whose subtle shades of gray and white would be displayed in infinite touches. The painting of Szenes is as vast, extended and horizontal as Vieira’s is tight, vertical and deep.
This verticality and horizontality is exactly what strikes most when one enters the space of their two ateliers at the Orangerie in Yèvre-le-Châtel, in the Loiret. The two workshops are identical in size and volume, but they give a totally different impression. In Arpad, one enters a space animated by an immense horizontal canopy, which bathes the whole space of the studio with a zenithal, soft and enveloping light. At Vieira’s, one enters a space where tall windows, placed vertically next to each other on a whole wall, punctuated by long curtains, make it possible to filter and create entrances of light here and there. The two workshops are connected by terraces, built by the architect Georges Johannet, who explained to me their genesis – each had its own light and had nevertheless to unite the artists in music – Handel, Bartok, Haydn, Beethoven, Bartok, Varese, Boulez ... – while they were painting: Arpad Szenes was the master of music.
Vieira da Silva and Arpad Szenes are thus, in their destiny as painters and spouses, in a pictorial and poetic quest for the landscapes of their soul and of their hearts; Vieira da Silva in a world of cities and civilizations that become the metaphors of space-time and spirit; Arpad Szenes in the furrows of the wind, the flight of birds and the light of the rocks, of a contemplation mood, both sensitive and distant, almost oriental. An artistic quest that indicates the respective path of these two artists towards the light, where the consciousness of a project of life and art carried out laboriously and personally by each one, until the slow artistic journey leads them both to a luminous serenity in their art as well as in their own being.