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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Delvaux, Paul


The Tunnel
1978
oil on canvas
150 x 240 cm
Fondation Paul Delvau, Belgium

Paul Delvaux (1897-1994) was a Belgian painter and printmaker. He was, with Rene Magritte, one of the major exponents of Surrealism in Belgium, although he never officially joined. He was the son of a lawyer. The young Delvaux took music lessons, studied Greek and Latin, and absorbed the fiction of Jules Verne and the poetry of Homer. All of his work was to be influenced by these readings, starting with his earliest drawings showing mythological scenes.

He began his training in 1920 at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, albeit in the architecture department owing to his parents' disapproval of his ambition to be a painter. Nevertheless, he pursued his goal, attending painting classes.
In his earliest works, he was strongly influenced by the Flemish Expressionism of painters. In the mid-1930s, however, he turned decisively to Surrealism, not as an orthodox member of the movement but to a large extent under the influence of Giorgio De Chirico. His paintings are primarily nostalgic scenes in which women often appear in the nude. The painstakingly detailed nature of his works manages to convey an unreality, a world of his own imagination. His combination of photographic realism with unusual juxtapositions and a sense of mystery, places him in the same surrealistic category as Rene Magritte and Giorgio de Chirico. He is considered an important contributor to modern art of the mid 20th century.

Delvaux acknowledged his influences, saying of de Chirico, "with him I realized what was possible, the climate that had to be developed, the climate of silent streets with shadows of people who can't be seen, I've never asked myself if it's surrealist or not." He did not consider himself "a Surrealist in the scholastic sense of the word." "Delvaux ... always maintained an intimate and privileged relationship to his childhood, which is the underlying motivation for his work and always manages to surface there. This 'childhood,' existing within him, led him to the poetic dimension in art."