Painting Analysis Of Jean Helion's 1948 Painting Term Paper


Painting analysis of Jean Helion's 1948 painting "Grande Citrouillerie" (Big Pumpkin Event) Rather than a traditional harvest painting, as its title might suggest, "Grande Citrouillerie," or, in English translation the "Big Pumpkin Event," has the appearance of a poster or advertisement painted in an art deco fashion typical of the 19th century. The painting shows the form of a twisted, half cut open pumpkin with its inner seeds and hanging pulp revealed. The painting's colors are rich and autumnal in tone. The palate of the painting is made up of brilliant oranges, reds, yellows and burnt sienna. These warm tones convey the sense of the pumpkin's fall harvest season as well as form the lines of the fruit itself. The colors create a sense of seasonality and ripeness, as well as suggest the painting's subject of a ripe pumpkin. The colors' warmth, however, stands in contrast to the 'advertised' nature of the setup of the painting and its unnaturally unblended tones. The painting is eye catching much like a brightly painted advertisement.

This advertised quality is not just evident in the bright yet twisted shape of the fruit that dominates not only the frontal perspective, but also the background of the painting. The overall effect of the painting is not realistic, because of the orange background and broad brushstrokes used to render the pumpkin, despite its realistic portrayal of the pumpkin as a fruit with seeds. The overall brightness and starkness of line suggests in style an almost cartoon-like promotion for the large pumpkin. The reference to a 'event' in the paintings title further contributes...


Its off-center positioning and lack of spherical shape is further suggested by the irregular cuts in its surface, cuts that reveal the inner 'guts' of the pumpkin. The fact that the pumpkin in the context of the painting is slightly off center makes the irregular shape and irregular perspective work with one another to make the pumpkin seem almost surreally misshapen. The pumpkin thus seems even more convoluted and 'staged' by the artist, rather than a study of nature.
There is an open sexuality in the portrait that goes beyond the mere bounty suggested of fall. The deliberately cut opening of the pumpkin is almost sensual in its shape, conveying a sense of fertility without directly suggesting that the pumpkin is being harvested. This fertility, however, is slightly unnatural, given it is cut rather than how the fruit exists in nature. Jean Helion, the artist once observed, "You don't dream about angles and surfaces and so on. You dream about women, bread, smokes and trees," and the dream of the artist of a pumpkin, rather than a study from life is confirmed by this deliberate way of slicing and cutting the painting's subject. ("Dreams," The Painter's Keys, Quotes: Jean Helion, 2005)

Painting is all about choices, and it is important to note that rather than show the soil from which the pumpkin comes, or to try to make a realistic representation that is evocative of the bounty of the earth, as might be assumed of a study of the fruit of the autumn season, the garish pumpkin seems to literally…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

"Dreams." The Painter's Keys. Quotes: Jean Helion. 2005.

Helion, Jean." Grande Citrouillerie." English translation: "Big Pumpkin Event." 1948.

"Jean Helion." Artnet. 2005.
'Jean Helion." Artist: Biography. The Guggenheim Collection.

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