Valensi was a leading member of the group of artists who he himself named ‘Musicalistes’. The aim of this group, who worked from the 1930s to the 1950s, was to interpret in two dimensions and in purely abstract shapes the dynamics and rhythms of music, the purest from of art. Valensi organised and took part in 23 Salons de Peinture Musicaliste in Paris, the first in 1932, and organised shows in Prague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Budapest. His abstract theories were first shown as early as 1912 when he exhibited at the Salon de la Section d’Or with Duchamp, Gleizes, Picabia and Delaunay and showed Marche funèbre de Chopin. Valensi is considered a major exponent of the second generation of abstract artists. A retrospective of his work took place at the Galerie de l’Institut in Paris in 1957 and his work is represented in the Musée de la’Art Moderne.
Henry Valensi was a proponant of “infusionist” painting (also called “musicalism”). At the Ecole des Beaux Arts, he followed the advice of Jules Lefebvre and Tony Robert-Fleury and spent his time, until the war, travelling throughout Europe and most particularly in Greece and Turkey where he found inspiration. He exhibited at the Salon des Orientalistes from 1905 and from 1907 at the Salon des Indépendents to which he remained faithful. His theories were being already explored in his pictorial search and in 1912, he actively participated to the organisation of the Salon de la Section d’Or alongside Marcel Duchamp, Gleizes and Picabia.
During the war, he became Peintre de l’Etat-Major du Général Gouraud and gathered numerous war documents that are now on display at the Musée de la Guerre (War Museum) in Vincennes, on the outskirts of Paris. When the war ended, he began travelling again. He flirted with Neo-Impressionism, directing all his brush strokes towards the centre of interest of the composition, proving to be the brilliant landscapist everyone knows. He was exhibiting at the 4 corners of the world, when he felt the insufficiency of objectivity only as a mean of expression. That is when he created his own “instrument” that can not be assimilated to futurism nor expressionism and that he himself named “musicalism”, wher ehe used the rhythmic division of the canvas to superpose the different elements of a same vision.
Amongst his most characteristic work, we will name Marche funèbre de Chopin (1912), Prière à Sainte Sophie (1914), Essai d’une perspective nouvelle basée sur le temps et l’espace (1921). In 1932, he founded the Association des Artistes Musicalistes in Paris. He travelled extensively in Europe and Africa. After the Second World War, he participated to the first Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in 1947 and later became the committee’s vice-president. With his conception of Musicalist paintings, using geometrical shapes that have no trace in reality, Valensi is without doubt one of the great abstract painters of the second generation.