Paul Delvaux

1897 Antheit (Wanze) – Veurne 1994

  • Heureux souhaits

    Happy wishes

  • Chinese ink and watercolour on paper, ca. 1955

    Signed on lower right P. Delvaux.

  • Size

    13 x 36 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 fine example of Paul Delvaux’s talent to produce decorative, yet powerful image; as well as a beautiful testimony of the artist’s relation with Belgian key personalities of the cultural milieu. 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 in his works. 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 figure dominates most of the artist’s oeuvre. Denuded women, often only adorned with richly decorated hats, and goddesses inspired by the Odyssey, give real forms to internal reflections and fantasies, much like the women depicted in the Khnopff’s work. Typical of Delvaux are the carefully drawn details in Chinese ink, whilst the application of watercolour adds a bygone and delicate air to the picture. The graceful goddesses stylistically remind us of symbolist nymphs, yet are rendered with a modern touch. Delvaux’s play of clair-obscur delivers appealing dynamics in a narrowly framed scene. The affectionate deities on the foreground, ornamented with starred headbands and Greek robes, form a frieze-like décor that opens up to the brightly coloured and inscribed sun in the background.


    The presence of a child embracing the goddess on the right plane and the attentive writing “heureux souhaits à Tita et André Tirifays” (happy wishes to Tita and André Tirifays) suggest that the addressed couple is probably expecting something divine, a child. A celebrative dedication from a friend to a friend. André and Paul knew each other by frequenting the same artistic Belgian scene. As a journalist, cinephile and one of the chief founders of the Royal Cinemathèque of Belgium, André Thirifays was highly involved in the Belgian cinematic world.


    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.

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