Paul Delvaux

1897 Antheit (Wanze) – Veurne 1994

  • Jeunes femmes face à face

    Young women standing face to face

  • Watercolour on paper, 1972

    Signed and dated on lower right P. Delvaux. 1972.

  • Size

    34 x 25 cm

  • Provenance

    Private collection, Brussels (acquired directly from the artist)

  • Literature

    Robert Giron, Paul Delvaux, New York, 1959; Phillippe Roberts-Jones & Albert Dasnoy, De Ingres à Paul Delvaux: oeuvres de peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, membres de l’Académie, Bruxelles, 1973, p. 36; Claire Leblanc et al., Paul Delvaux : maître de rêve, Paris, 2017

  • Exhibition

    A seductive drawing illustrating the unique charm of Paul Delvaux’s vision of women. Belgian iconic artist, Paul Delvaux has reckoned with influences of Rubens’ nudes, Belgian symbolism of James Ensor and Fernand Khnopff before culminating as a Surrealist, alongside René Magritte. Tormented by worries and frights, Delvaux spent his time in his studio concentrating only on his work, thinking of and reliving his dreams. As his artist friend Robert Giron said, Delvaux was more made to dream than to live.[1] Inspired by classical antiquities from his education[2] Delvaux often includes Greek-Roman details. As a master of the dream[3], Paul Delvaux is capable of transfiguring recognisable elements and women into a universe different from ours.

     

    Although his artistic style changed over time, the female nude dominates most of the artist’s oeuvre, possibly inspired from the numerous female presences (Calypso, Circe, Nausicaa, the Sirens) present in the Odyssey, a cornerstone of his classical education After Delvaux finished his studies at the Académie Royale de Belgique, he underwent a period affected by Ensor’s work of skeletons and feathered hats.[4] Denuded women, often only adorned with richly decorative hats, and goddesses give real forms to internal reflections and fantasies, much like the women depicted in Khnopff’s work. Similar to Belgian symbolist artworks Delvaux’s depictions of memories, visions and internalised archetypical images are the pictorial forms of human experiences such as loneliness, death, life, love and the divine.

     

    Whilst Delvaux created this work far in his surrealist period, the graceful and carefully drawn arabesques in this sheet stylistically remind us of the symbolist nymphs. The application of watercolour adds a bygone and delicate air to the picture and the supernatural brightness, which seems to radiate from the figures, diffuses as the eye is drawn to the pastel-greyish background. The contours of these mystical and idealised women become soft and translucent as they surrender to the enveloping colours. Time seems to immobilize, almost towards the eternal, and the closeness of these two women make it seem as though they are two of the same, forever joined together.

     

    The current sheet is accompanied by an authentication certificate issued by Fondation Paul Delvaux.

    [1] As written by Robert Giron in the introductory letter of the exhibition catalogue Paul Delvaux at Staempfli Gallery, New York.

    [2] De Ingres à Paul Delvaux, Palais des Académies, Bruxelles, no. 3, 1973, p. 36.

    [3] The exhibition at the Palais Lumière in 2017 accurately titled the painter maître de rêve.

    [4] Claire Leblanc et al., 2017, p. 18.

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