For many artists, Paris symbolised freedom of artistic expression, and a significant number flocked to La Ville Lumière
to study and hone their craft and join the flourishing arts community. Paule Vézelay, who moved to Paris in 1926,
recalled meeting “all the giants…Braque and Picasso were doing their most vigorous work in the next street
to my little studio”.
Archway was painted in 1929, the same year she became involved with the Surrealist artist André Masson (they were
engaged at one time, but she broke off the relationship). 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.
Her work of the late 1920s is semi-automatic and abstract, featuring cursive linear motifs, but it subsequently became
more geometrical, and in 1934 she joined the international group Abstraction-Création (founded in Paris in 1931 ro
promote art non- figuratif). Vézelay counts as one of the earliest and most imaginative British abstract painters; her
interest in abstraction pre-dates that of Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson and precedes the famous Unit One
exhibition and book of 1934. Her style – of which this is a key example – was unprecedented in the context of British art
of the period.