Click on photos to enlarge.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Paul Delvaux

The Nude and the Model, 1947, Paul Delvaux. (The nude is on the left.)
Early last year (2012) the art collection once belonging to the late actress, Elizabeth Taylor was sold by Christie's in London for £13,787,750 ($22,524,365). There were a two van Goghs, a Pissarro, a Degas, and a Renoir, among others. Among those others was a painting by Paul Delvaux titled Le Nu et le Mannequin (The Nude and the Model, above), which, alone, accounted for $5,373,975 of the total figure, though it didn't receive the headlines garnered by some of the bigger names in art history. Le Nu et le Mannequin was painted in 1947. It's a somewhat surrealistic piece featuring neo-classical architectural motifs, a classic Delvaux female nude languorously arrayed in the foreground among potted plants and flowers, and a mostly undraped dressmakers manikin. What's most interesting is, look at the face of the nude figure. Look like anyone you might recognize? Elizabeth Taylor was born in 1932. She would have been fifteen years old at the time the painting was done, so it's unlikely she posed for it. But, could she have been the inspiration for the face, even at such an early age? Remember, she had starred in two motion pictures by the time she was twelve. Her father, Francis Taylor, was a successful art dealer through whom Elizabeth purchased most of her collection. Paul Delvaux was an important Belgian artist in 1947 so it's likely Francis Taylor knew of his work, if not the man himself. It's always fun to speculate.
The Worried City, 1941, Paul Delvaux, (possibly London?)
The Narrator, 1937, Paul Delvaux,
a self-portrait.
Paul Delvaux painted mostly female nudes. On the surface, that would seem to be a very generalized appraisal of the man's work. It is. It's also very accurate. It would be easy to stereotype the artist as something of a "dirty old man" albeit a somewhat surreal specimen. Although the name is French (pronounced del-VO), he was born in Belgium, the son of a lawyer. He was classically trained in music, Greek and Latin literature, and architecture (his parents were dead set against his being a painter). Initially, at least, he painted fairly traditional, natural landscapes influenced by Flemish expressionists. Then he met the Italian surrealist, Giorgio de Chirico, in the late 1920s and fellow Belgian artist, Rene Magritte, a few years later. Their influences are obvious in much of Delvaux's work from then on.
The Wise Virgins, 1965, Paul Delvaux
Though both de Chirico and Magritte incorporated nude figures into their paintings from time to time (Magritte more than de Chriico) neither were, what we'd call today, as "hung up" on them as was Delvaux. Even a quick appraisal of his life's work (he died in 1994) would indicated that as much as ninety percent of his subject content involved the proverbial "bare naked ladies" (and not the rock bamd, either). The Worried City (above, center) would suggest that he was not adverse to painting the male nude, yet most of his figures were of the famale variety. His self-portrait (above, right) would seem to indicate he may have had a mirror in his bathroom. That's not to say Delvaux painted nothing else but female nudes. He also painted clothed female figures as seen in his Wise Virgins (above, left) dating from 1965.

The Deposition, 1951, Paul Delvaux.
Technically speaking, Delvaux was not a surrealist. His work seldom approaches the otherworldly levels of Dali, de Chrico, or Magritte. In writing about Freudian Art several months ago, I mentioned Delvaux interest in dreams. Indeed, virtually any of the man's offerings might be considered a painted dream. But dreams and Surrealism are not one and the same. We might go so far as to suggest Delvaux's art falls more in the realm of wet dreams. Even when not painting nudes, Delvau's works have a dreamy, even nightmarish quality. His religious works from the period 1945-1955 display a move from the nude figure to the really nude figure--the skeleton. His Deposition (above) dates from 1951, while his Crucifixion, is from 1952 (strange, they were done in reverse order to their occurance).

The Crucifixion, 1952, Paul Delvaux
The Evening Train, 1957, Paul Delvaux
Having apparently tired of nudes and nude skeletons, another fascination of Delvaux was trains and industrial cities. His Evening Train (left), dates from 1957. His Night Watchman II (bottom) is from somewhat later, I think, though I've not been able to attach a reliable date for its creation. Sometimes, during this period, he painted both interests into the same scene. An alternate title for his Night Watchman II which may have been the original title, I find most amusing and intriguing--Around the Day in Eighty Worlds.

The Night Watchman II, Paul Delvaux
(also titled Around the Day in Eighty Worlds).


No comments:

Post a Comment