Vezelay, Paule

(1892 – 1984)

A Moving Form and a Yellow Circle

Collage and pastel on paper 

DESCRIPTION

Provenance:
The Artist’s Estate

Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, et al. Women Only Works on Paper. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p. 86.

Paule Vézelay was one of the earliest and most imaginative British abstract artists. Having moved
to Paris in 1926, she quickly established a visual language of non-figurative shapes and forms that
she would call upon throughout the rest of her career. She insisted that the circles, ellipses, and
flame-like lozenges of these works did not have their genesis in natural forms’, but were invented
according to her concerns with harmony, balance, spacing and rhythmical contrast. In 1933, Vézelay
wrote: Of my own work I must say that I hope to give intense pleasure to the eye of the beholder, enticing
his regard to remain on colours and forms more pleasing than can easily be found in actuality, or seen
by his own unaided imagination. I hope this pleasure will prove a kind of music for the eyes, and may
hold his regard long enough to convey what I am telling with this mysterious language of paint; since it is
something that can only be painted.’

Although adept across several mediums, Vézelay discovered what she called a special quality’ in draw-
ing with pastel, and often applied it directly onto canvas. Her experiments with cut-collage and pastel

further demonstrate the artist’s wish to express form in space from the flat surface of the paper, which
she achieved in delicate and profound ways.

With thanks to Jane England

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THE ARTIST

Vezelay, Paule

1892 – 1984

Paule VŽ zelay (nŽ e 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 LG the
next year. In 1926, she moved to Paris and adopted the name Paule
VŽ zelay, which ‘ despite the moniker’s distinctly French nature ‘
she claimed was “for purely aesthetic reasons”. 

Closely associated with AndrŽ Masson (1896’1987) (with
whom she lived for four years), Jean Arp (1886’1966) and Sophie
Taeuber-Arp (1889’1943) during this period, by the early 1930s
VŽ zelay’s work had become increasingly abstract and she joined
Abstraction-CrŽ ation 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.

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