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 Paul Delvaux  (1897 - 1994)

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Lived/Active: Belgium      Known for: Surrealist painting, nude figure

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Paul Delvaux was born in Antheit, near Huys, Belgium on September 23, 1897.  He studied architecture from 1916 to 1917, then painting under Constant Montald and Jean Delville  from 1919 to 1920 and at the Academie des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. He served in the Belgian Army  from 1920 to 1921, then in 1924 he established a studio in Brussels.  He visited Paris in 1926; and traveled in Italy from 1938 to 1939.      

Until he was nearly forty, Delvaux painted heavy landscapes that rarely showed a human being.  His style was a Flemish variation of the German and Scandinavian expressionism.  Then in 1936 he discovered the surrealist work of de Chirico and Magritte.  Delvaux destroyed almost every painting he had ever done and began anew. As purely "poetic composition" his paintings can delight, but they are so full of chilling secrets that they rarely fail to haunt.   

Delvaux worked in seclusion during the German occupations in 1940 to 1944.  He worked on designs for theatre and ballet.  He lived in Choisel, France from 1949; married Anne-Marie (Tam) DeMartelaere in 1952.  He was Professor of Painting at the Ecole Nationale Superiere d'art and d'architecture, Brussels from 1950 to 1962 and President of the Academie Royale des Beaux-arts in Brussels in 1965.   

Although he was not formally a member of the surrealist movement, he was considered one of the last of that pioneering group that shocked and offended much of the art world in the 1920s.  His career spanned almost seventy years, during which he gained fame for depicting the richness of the subconscious in figurative but irrational images.  His work often reflected alienation and empty train stations, deserted vehicles or barren deserts. Delvaux created paintings that are profoudly original, exerting a strange hypnotic power over the viewer.  The impossibility of significant connection between sexes is a frequent theme in his work.  Certainly it reflects the artist's own ambivalence toward women, springing from a childhood shaped by a domineering mother.  He is the master of frigid eroticism, painting nude women in public settings where they remain totally unaffected by the experience, even aloof.  Delvaux became incapacitated by failure and poor health.  He had not painted for years when he died in 1994.   

Written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California

Sources include:   
Time Magazine, June 28, 1963   
LA Times. July 20, 1994   

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