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    Sale 7701

    Impressionist/Modern Art, Evening Sale

    4 February 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 44

    Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)


    Price Realised  


    Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)
    signed and dated 'P. Delvaux 11-56' (lower right)
    oil on panel
    51 x 51 in. (129.7 x 129.7 cm.)
    Painted in 1956

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    Paul Delvaux's preoccupation with stations and trains first emerged in his art during the 1920s and provided a theme that would continually recur throughout his entire oeuvre. Painted in 1956, Faubourg represents the shift in Delvaux's approach to this key subject during the mid-fifties. Whereas railways had typically provided a backdrop for an enigmatic arrangement of nude models, they became increasingly isolated as a subject at this time, occasionally accompanied by a lone girl as an expression of childhood fears and fascinations. Much of Delvaux's art stems from childhood memories and trains had always been of special interest to the artist, who never forgot the hours he spent wandering alongside the railway tracks as a boy. 'I paint the trains of my childhood and through them that childhood itself,' he stated, 'the pictures of stations and trains do not represent reality. There remains the strange, a spectacle perhaps? I know that despite the pleasure I have in painting them, railways and stations are somewhat limiting subjects; but wrenching them out of normality has the opposite effect and pushes the subject towards the universal.' (J. Meuris, 7 dialogues avec Paul Delveaux accompagnés de 7 lettres imaginaires', in Le Soleil Noir, Paris, 1971, pp. 120-122).

    Although ostensibly a normal scene, Delvaux has cleverly infused Faubourg with the metaphysical sense of mystery that is common to the early work of Giorgio de Chirico. Like many Surrealist painters, Delvaux had first been motivated to attempt to create a form of visual poetry through his contact with the work of De Chirico, whose sharply defined images of eerie architectural environments could conjure up feelings of menace, nostalgia and solitude. Using a limited catalogue of commonplace imagery, Delvaux was able to construct his own uncanny universe in pictures that act as windows opening onto a reality entirely conceived in the imagination of the artist. With Faubourg, Delvaux appears to deliberately indicate the fragile dividing line between his illusory 'twilight zones' and the physical world by depicting a broken fence in its immediate foreground. In many respects, Faubourg is not a Surrealist painting in that nothing overtly unreal is evident in the painting. Yet, in the subtlest of ways, Delvaux has instilled this inconspicuous scene of an empty train passing through a generic European suburb with a pervasive sense of unease. As in all Delvaux's works, every element is clearly visible although it is night, with long, dramatic shadows cast by a slight crescent moon. This incongruous effect instantly bathes this deserted urban landscape in a dreamlike atmosphere, generating a disturbing stillness in an image that captures the disquieting nature of the everyday.

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    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    The artist's studio, Boisfort.
    René Simonis, Brussels; sale, Sotheby's, London, 3 December 1975, lot 48.
    Acquired at the above sale by the family of the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    L.L. Sosset, 'Les expositions à Brussels', in Les Beaux Arts, Brussels, 5 April 1957, no. 767 (illustrated p. 5).
    L.L. Sosset, 'Un monde d'évasion en suspens: Paul Delvaux', in Le Rail, Brussels, January 1965, no. 101 (illustrated p. 23).
    L.L. Sosset, 'Een wereld van magisch realisme: Paul Delvaux', in Het Spoor, Brussels, January 1965, no. 101 (illustrated p. 23).
    P.A. de Bock, Paul Delvaux, l'homme, le peintre, psychologie d'un art, Brussels, 1967, p. 297 (illustrated pl. 119, p. 193).
    M. Butor, J. Clair & S. Houbart-Wilkin, Delvaux: catalogue de l'oeuvre peint, Brussels, 1975, no. 226 (illustrated p. 241).


    Charleroi, Salle de la Bourse, XXXIe Salon, hommage à Marc Chagall, rétrospective Paul Delvaux, Cercle royal Artistique et Littéraire de Charleroi, March - April 1957, no. 66.
    São Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna, IVe Bienal, Pavillon belge, September - December 1957, no. 7 (illustrated).
    Ostend, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Paul Delvaux, July - August 1962, no. 50.
    Geneva, Galerie Krugier, Rétrospective Paul Delvaux, September - October 1966, no. 15.
    Ixelles, Musée d'Ixelles, Paul Delvaux, November - December 1967, no. 32 (illustrated).
    Brussels, Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Paul Delvaux, 1897-1994, March - July 1997, no. 87 (illustrated p. 144).