Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)

Paul Delvaux

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Paul Delvaux was born on September 23, 1897 in Antheit, Belgium.  He is famous for his surrealist paintings with female nudes.  As a young boy Delvaux took music lessons, studied Greek and Latin, and read the fiction of Jules Verne and the poetry of Homer.

Delvaux studied architecture from 1916 to 1917 at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, owing to his parents’ disapproval of his ambition to be a painter.  However, he pursued his goal and attended painting classes at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, taught by Constant Montald and Jean Delville from 1919 to 1920.  From 1920 to 1921 he served in the Belgain Army, and in 1924 he opened a studio in Brussels.

Paul Delvaux painted heavy landscapes until he was forty; a Flemish variation of the German and Scandinavian expressionism.  In 1936 he discovered the surrealist work of de Chirico and Magritte, and destroyed almost every painting he had done before. 

During the German occupations in 1940 to 1944, he worked in seclusion on designs for theatre and ballet.  From 1949 he lived in Choisel, France, and in 1952 married Anne-Marie (Tam) DeMartelaere.  From 1950 to 1962 he was Professor of Painting at the Ecole Nationale Superier d’art and d’architecture in Brussels, and President of the Academie Royale des Beaux-arts in Brussels in 1965.  In 1982, the Paul Delvaux Museum opened in Saint-Idesbald.

Delvaux was not formally a member of the surrealist movement, however he was considered to be one of the last of that pionerring group that shocked and offended much of the art world in the 1920s.  He gained fame for his depiction of the richness of the subconscious in figurative but irrational images that displayed the impossibility of significant connection between the sexes.  He painted nude women in public settings where they were aloof to the experience. 

Paul Delvaux died in Veurne on July 20, 1994. 

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