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Delvaux and the Antiquity

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Antiquity as inspiration can be revealed in the works of Paul Delvaux as from the beginning of the 1930s and gets more important during World War II, for example with the theme of the tragic city. His interest in antiquity is characterized by antique sculpture and leads the artist to the elaboration of a theatralic human figure. These theatralic and dramatic representations put on mythical figures like Pygmalion, Venus or Penelope as well as sirens, ephebes and hamadryads. Delvaux also evokes a certain secret sacrality of so-called "places of memory" as temples and antique places like the Acropolis, Olympia or Pompeii. Places which Delvaux visited on the occasion of his two journeys to Italy in 1937 and 1939 as well as on his travel through Greece in 1956. Finally, we should not forget a most important aspect of Delvaux's reception of antiquity: that of melancholic withdrawal.

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Book details

  • PDF | 189 pages
  • EXHIBITIONS INT'L (March 26, 2010)
  • English
  • 2
  • Arts & Photography

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Review Text

  • By Tim Lukeman on March 5, 2013

    This impressive & sumptuous volume examines the art of Paul Delvaux in depth, with particular attention to its roots in Greek antiquity in combination with a Surrealist sensibility. The text is sensitive & illuminating, with essays by several writers delving into specific aspects of Delvaux's work. Gorgeous full-color reproductions of his paintings, along with close-ups of details, preliminary sketches, and photographs of actual statuary & ruins of antiquity, allow the reader to enter this mysterious moonlit world of large-eyed female figures in emptied, otherworldly cities that are emblematic of the contemporary psyche & landscape.To use Jungian terms, Delvaux was especially drawn to the Anima, the female Other within each man, the spirit & soul of both the individual & the culture at large. Drawing on both mythology & the history of art, he presents us with tableaux of semi-nudes in a placid but somehow powerfully pregnant stillness, like oracles or goddesses. Sometimes these figures are in transition from organic forms, such as trees or stone, into an unearthly white flesh. Often a solitary male figure in modern attire appears somewhere in the background, small & barely present, but a witness to the transcendent Otherness of the female figures.In some ways I'm reminded of the work of Surrealist women such as Remedios Varo & Leonora Carrington, except that they're painting from the core of their female being, painting from the inside out as it were, while Delvaux is a man outside of & apart from the feminine. He's fascinated, captivated, enthralled -- but he can never really know what these women are within, only his perceptions & projections of them. Perhaps that's all he really wants.This book is all the more beautiful because so many of the paintings are captioned as "whereabouts unknown" -- which means this may be the only chance we have to see them. The preliminary sketches are as lovely & eerie as the finished paintings, as if drawn with smoke & shadows; the paintings themselves have an almost Medieval luminosity to them. And indeed there's a holy quality to them, a sense of sacredness that demands silent awe from the viewer.In every way, most highly recommended!

  • By FlokkPress on January 20, 2014

    Delvaux is showing us another dimension. A world that’s made of dreams and mythology. He is a master of that universe.

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