Episode #7 of the course “Great surrealist painters of all time”
A Belgian painter born in 1897, Paul Delvaux is most commonly associated with the circle of Surrealist artists around Rene Magritte. Although he never formally considered himself a Surrealist, Delvaux painted striking images that placed unexpected elements next to one another, creating a jump in logic and a stirring of emotion for any viewer.
Delvaux studied architecture at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, and he often worked his architectural knowledge into his paintings, which place nudes in beautiful architectural settings. Sleeping Venus, for example, portrays a woman reclining in the moonshine of Roman-looking ruins. Painted during the German Occupation in 1944, Delvaux wanted to capture the “psychology of that moment” with an oppressive atmosphere and a woman seemingly oblivious to the impending darkness.
The skeleton has the shell
Delvaux repeated particular symbols that he sometimes adopted or reinterpreted from his contemporaries. He depicted skeletons, nude women, men in bowler hats, and crucifixions in great detail interacting naturally. The dream-like qualities in his work were about awakening the viewer to a new perspective on the subject matter.
The Great Sirens
The Great Sirens, completed in 1947, is typical of his style and attempts to produce “poetic shock,” where the viewer is confronted with incongruous but related material. In addition to connecting the objects together in space, he probed the viewer into questioning their metaphysical connection as well. Much like some free-association writing and painting, Delvaux’s style ties together the unexpected in new and sometimes surprisingly fresh ways.
Ruins of Selinunte
Dedicated to teaching others to enhance their art, Paul Delvaux taught at Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Art et d’Architecture in Brussels for 12 years before his death in 1994.
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