EXHIBITED: London, The Leicester Galleries, John Armstrong, 1929, cat.no.11
LITERATURE: Andrew Lambirth (with a catalogue raisonné by Annette Armstrong and Jonathan Gibbs), John Armstrong, The Paintings, Philip Wilson Publishers, London, 2009, cat.no.77, p.159
This large early work was executed the year after Armstrong's first one man exhibition, held at the Leicester Galleries. The exhibition was well attended and reviewed, with the Evening Standard's critic R.H. Wilenski commenting that 'his pictures, like all original work, are rather startling at first glance, but there is no gainsaying their vitality or the artist's power to translate his images into thoroughly worked-out designs' (Andrew Lambirth (with a catalogue raisonné by Annette Armstrong and Jonathan Gibbs), John Armstrong: The Paintings, Phillip Wilson Publishers, London, p.20).
The Rape of Persephone was considered by reviewers to be the masterpiece of the exhibition with Anthony Bertram noting that the work contained a sculptural, architectural dignity that was classical in its emphasis. There can be little doubt that The Rape of Helen, painted the following year, bears these same attributes. The seemingly modernist interpretation of the architecture and posture of the figures in the present work is testament to Armstrong's ability to sensitively transcribe his knowledge of the classical world into the modern artistic era.
The importance of this picture is illustrated by the fact that Armstrong completed two versions of it. Sketch for the Rape of Helen was also exhibited in the 1929 Leicester Galleries exhibition and is a half scale version of the present work.