Twelve years after the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
held a large retrospective, the world of Paul Delvaux (1897-1994) will once more be explored in an ambitious exhibition that will tackle a theme which had previously been neglected by art historians: the transposition of antiquity into the work of this Belgian artist. Delvaux asserted his passion for antiquity all his life, long before he saw these ancient places, which had become mythical, with his own eyes.
Inspiration derived from antiquity revealed itself in Paul Delvauxs work at the beginning of the 1930s and became ever more prevalent during the course of the Second World War, particularly through the theme of the tragic city. Delvauxs interest in ancient sculpture led him to develop a theatricalized human figure. His dramatic compositions contained mythical figures from antiquity such as Pygmalion, Venus and Penelope or sirens, ephebes and hamadryads. They evoke the secret sacrality of places of memory such as temples and the ancient cities of Acropolis, Olympia and Pompeii. Delvaux would visit these places during two trips to Italy, in 1937 and 1939 and an extended tour of Greece in 1956. Another important aspect of the incorporation of antiquity into Delvauxs work is that of melancholic withdrawal.
The visitor will be able to begin a journey through time and space by means of more than seventy works and documents illustrating the various ancient reminiscences in Delvauxs work. From sketch books, passing through wonderful watercolours painted on location and drawings, little masterpieces in themselves, right up to canvases of impressive size, we follow the path through this reception together with the artist. This exhibitions greatest assets are definitely the works on paper. Whilst primarily known for his canvases and murals, often containing trains and stations, Delvaux was also a great draughtsman, something that is often forgotten.
However, a subject such as this is not approached spontaneously. This theme was first devised by Jean Clair and a small group of French researchers and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium are proud to be part of this project in collaboration with the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation of Athens. In the book accompanying the exhibition you can find out about this theme from different viewpoints those of archaeologists or literary and art historians as well as a poetic vision from the Mediterranean coast. Within the rooms housing the exhibition these words come to life and become tangible.
Delvaux and antiquity has just been hosted to great success by the Goulandris Foundation in their museum in Andros. A little more than 50 years after Delvaux, his works have travelled to Greece. Having delighted the Greek public, it is now the Belgian publics turn to be inspired by ancient Greece.