La Ville tentaculaire typifies Vieira da Silva’s turn to the urban landscape after World War II. Her work from this decade displays the interplay of wartime violence and post-war restoration manifested in European cities, including her beloved Paris, where she returned in 1947 after her wartime exile in Rio de Janeiro. Both La Ville tentaculaire and The City, a 1950-51 composition currently in the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, exemplify Vieira da Silva’s commitment to exploring the cityscape through her architectonic constructions. The artist named her 1954 composition after the late twentieth-century volume of Symbolist poetry Les Villes tentaculaires, written by the Belgian pioneer of Modernism, Émile Verhaeren. The volume’s poetry, as in Vieira da Silva’s composition, tells the story of rapid urban expansion and countryside’s transformation. In La Ville tentaculaire the influence of Italian Futurism on Vieira da Silva’s practice is especially palpable. Themes of industrialization and mechanization found in the artist’s 1954 painting, were well-explored in the beginning of the century by Italian Futurists including Umberto Boccioni. Boccioni’s The City Rises from 1910 brings together the dynamism of the urban environment through expressionistic brushwork, utilizing vibrant color and captivating movement to burst forms outwardly towards the viewer in a manner distinctly similar to Vieira da Silva’s La Ville tentaculaire. Unlike the Futurists, Vieira da Silva completely abstracts her subjects, abandoning reality for organized chaos.
Private Collection, London Galerie Pierre, Paris Galerie Boulakia, Paris Private Collection (acquired from the above in the 1980s; sale: Christie's Paris, October 17, 2019, lot 24) Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)
New York, Di Donna Galleries, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva,
J. Grenier, "Vieira da Silva" in L'Œil, no. 14, Paris, 1956, illustrated p. 19 G. Weelen and J.-F. Jaeger, Vieira da Silva, Catalogue raisonné, Geneva, 1994, no. 1212, illustrated p. 239