Archway 1929

PAULE VEZELAY Also known as MARJORIE WATSON-WILLIAMS (1893-1984) Biography
SURREALISM (founded c.1924) Biography

Archway 1929 (France, 1929)

Oil on canvas
Signed on the reverse


35.50cm high
25.50cm wide
(13.98 inches high)
(10.04 inches wide)
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Exhibition History

Aldeburgh Festival Exhibition, Peter Pears Gallery, 9 -24 June 2006, catalogue number 1

Description / Expertise

Paule Vezelay was one of the first British artists to have the courage to rise above the rigid conventions of British art at the turn of the century and commit herself to the abstract movement and the Parisian avant garde.

Having studied at the London School of Art, South Kensington under George Belcher, the Punch draughtsman, M. Watson-Williams began her career with a series of striking illustrations during the First World War for: A Diary of the Great Warr by Samuel Pepys Junr., an anonymous pastiche of Pepys diaries.

On visiting Paris in 1920, she was so impressed that she moved there permanently in 1926, changing her name from M.Watson-Williams to Paule Vezelay. Here, she met with Picasso, Braque, Kandinsky, Matisse and Andre Masson whom she fell in love and lived with for four years. Working side by side, Vezelay and Masson painted dreamlike surrealist works, which led her to be considered by critics such as Christian Zervos to be amongst the Parisian avant-garde and by J. P. Hodin, a master of classical abstraction.

Breaking off her affair with Andre Masson, all traces of Surrealism disappeared from her work, and in 1934 she was invited to join the group Abstraction-Creation that brought together the leading artists of all countries who were working in non-figurative styles.

Her paintings became studies of harmony, balance, spacing, and rhythmical contrast echoing the late works of Henri Matisse, and she saw his daughter Marguerite Duthuit frequently in the 1930s. She began to experiment with collage, incorporating materials such as leaves, pieces of card and fishing line, making box-like constructions known as `Lines in Space'. These shallow wooden boxes are strung with a delicate spatial network of threads.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, she returned to England to live in Bristol, where she obtained a permit from Sir Kenneth Clark that enabled her to make some drawings of the bomb damage in Bristol and later several studies of a barrage balloon center.