Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)
Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)


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 November 1956
René Simonis, Brussels (by 1962); sale, Sotheby's, London, 3 December 1975, lot 48.
Private collection, Switzerland (acquired at the above sale).
Private collection, Switzerland (by descent from the above); sale, Christie's, London, 4 February 2009, lot 44.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
L.L. Sosset, "Les expositions à Brussels" in Les Beaux Arts, 5 April 1957, no. 767, p. 5 (illustrated).
L.L. Sosset, "Un monde d'évasion en suspens: Paul Delvaux" in Le Rail, January 1965, no. 101, p. 23 (illustrated).
L.L. Sosset, "Een wereld van magisch realisme: Paul Delvaux" in Het Spoor, January 1965, no. 101, p. 23 (illustrated).
P.A. de Bock, Paul Delvaux, l'homme, le peintre, psychologie d'un art, Brussels, 1967, p. 297 (illustrated, p. 193, pl. 119).
M. Butor, J. Clair and S. Houbart-Wilkin, Delvaux, Brussels, 1975, p. 241, no. 226 (illustrated).
Cercle royal Artistique et Littéraire de Charleroi, Salle de la Bourse, XXXIe Salon, hommage à Marc Chagall, rétrospective Paul Delvaux, March-April 1957, no. 66.
São Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna, Pavillon belge, IVe Bienal, September-December 1957, no. 7 (illustrated).
Ostend, Belgium, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Paul Delvaux, July-August 1962, no. 50.
Geneva, Galerie Krugier, Rétrospective Paul Delvaux, September-October 1966, no. 15.
Belgium, Musée d'Ixelles, Paul Delvaux, November-December 1967, no. 32 (illustrated).
Brussels, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Paul Delvaux, March-July 1997, no. 87 (illustrated, p. 144).

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

The sight and sounds of tram-cars plying the streets of Brussels were among Delvaux’s fondest early memories. “As a child,” he reminisced to Jacques Meuris, “I liked trains and this nostalgia has stayed with me... I paint the trains of my childhood, and consequently, that childhood itself” (quoted in M. Rombaut, Delvaux, Barcelona, 1990, p. 22). As a boy he dreamed of becoming a station-master; among his favorite early subjects as an aspiring painter were the railway lines that traversed the Gare du Quartier Léopold in Brussels, before the construction of a modern station, today the Gare de Bruxelles-Luxembourg. “I remember the Station of the Léopold Quarter when I was 4-5 years old,” Delvaux said, “seeing the waiting rooms of the second and third class, and through the windows I could see the old cars of the times, the old cars that were in use around 1903, the old copper cars” (quoted in Z. Barthelman and J. van Deun, Paul Delvaux: Odyssey of a Dream, Saint-Idesbal, Belgium, 2007, p. 16).
Delvaux also drew inspiration from those half-hidden trains that skirt the horizon in paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, his favorite modern painter, whom he called the “poet of emptiness...because he suggested that poem of silence and absence” (quoted in M. Rombaut, op. cit., 1990, p. 14). The locomotives and carriages Delvaux preferred to depict, as seen in de Chirico and here, are not the modern electric kind, but those dating from the turn of the century or even earlier. “The old steam machines had something human, when they started with their power,” he explained. “I believe that the steam machine fits a painting much better. I believe it has a certain ‘oldness’ and this ‘oldness’ has become customary in my work” (quoted in Z. Barthelman and J. van Deun, op. cit., 2007, p. 45).
To recreate these scenes required special attention to minute realistic detail, which gave Delvaux special pleasure in painting them; at the same time he imbued his locomotives and railway cars with that magical appearance of existing in the peculiar light of memory and nostalgia. To foster this effect, Delvaux favored nocturnal settings, in which the moon represents the inner eye of memory and dream. Indeed, these scenes signify deeper tensions. “Trams, trains and train stations work as recurring figures that represent the tangible and visible sides of reality,” Rombaut has observed. “These same elements stand out on the canvas as signs of repressed desire, forbidden games and stored up dreams that his undeciphered memory has delivered into his hands” (op. cit., 1990, p. 22).

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