PAUL DELVAUX (1897-1994)
PAUL DELVAUX (1897-1994)
PAUL DELVAUX (1897-1994)
1 More
PAUL DELVAUX (1897-1994)
4 More
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
PAUL DELVAUX (1897-1994)


PAUL DELVAUX (1897-1994)
signed and dated 'P. DELVAUX ST. IDESBALD. 9-68.' (lower right); signed, titled and inscribed 'ROSINE. P. DELVAUX. 34A AV. DES CAMPANULES. BRUXELLES 17 (WAT. BOITSFORT)' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
63 1/8 x 55 1/4 in. (160 x 140.4 cm.)
Painted in Saint-Idesbald in September 1968
The artist.
Private collection, Brussels, by descent from the above.
Private collection, Japan, by whom acquired from the above.
American/European Art Association, Inc., New York.
Private collection, Washington D.C., by whom acquired from the above; sale, Christie's, London, 25 June 2002, lot 43.
Private collection, Europe, by whom acquired at the above sale, and thence by descent.
M. Butor, J. Clair & S. Houbart-Wilkin, Delvaux, Brussels, 1975, no. 308, p. 271 (illustrated p. 270).
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Rétrospective Paul Delvaux, May - July 1969, no. 75.
Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Paul Delvaux, April - June 1986, no. 28, p. 15 (illustrated p. 119; with incorrect medium).
Osaka, Daimaru Museum of Art, Paul Delvaux, November 1989, no. 38 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Kyoto, Daimaru Museum of Art, January 1990; Tokyo, Isetan Museum of Art, February 1990; Himeji, Himeji City Museum of Art, March - April 1990; and Yokohama, Yokohoma Museum of Fine Art, April - May 1990.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Ottavia Marchitelli
Ottavia Marchitelli Senior Specialist, Head of The Art of The Surreal Sale

Lot Essay

Delightfully cryptic, Rosine is a striking representation of Paul Delvaux’s phantasmagoria; the work encapsulates the riddle that is Delvaux’s artistic idiom, at once legible and enigmatic, indefinite yet beguilingly intricate. The large canvas, painted in 1968 just before the artist moved close to the sea, to Veurne from Brussels, is replete with the emblems and imagery that have long filled Delvaux’s work, namely allusions to abandoned architecture and train station crossings, the minutia of memory, and diaphanous female nudes. Taken together, Delvaux’s Rosine is cipherlike and gossamer, an incongruous dreamscape in which the gap between truth and fiction appears to dissolve.
The title of the work, Rosine, refers to the house that Delvaux’s parents rented in 1917 for their summer holiday in La Panne, on the north coast of Belgium; it is this house that Delvaux has depicted here, shown at the back of the scene. Yet despite the biographical reference, Rosine exists in a world beyond reality and the architectural juxtapositions – although meticulously rendered and realistically detailed – contribute to this uncanny, dreamlike state. Delvaux has filled this nocturnal scape with strange characters and startling visual metaphors, each emancipated from its original contexts and reincarnated in paint. In the pooling lamplight stands the curious figure of Otto Lidenbrock, the geologist featured in Jules Verne's novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth; Lidenbrock was a recurrent figure in Delvaux’s paintings, having made one of his first appearances in 1939 in The Awakening of the Forest, held at the Art Institute Chicago. Delvaux, who had been given a copy of Verne’s novel for his first communion, was struck immediately by the book’s engravings. Lidenbrock, to the artist, is tied to the unknowable mystery of the centre of the earth; he symbolises the atmosphere that Delvaux wishes to convey.
Alongside him gather smartly dressed, albeit partially nude women, standing as rigid as statuary, arrested – she appears – between bedroom and sophisticated outing. Women in various stages of undress were an important leitmotif throughout Delvaux’s entire career, and he staged figures in interconnected though seemingly unrelated vignettes, posed amongst curious architectural constructions. ‘It’s always the same woman,’ he noted, ‘who recurs with more or less the same dress, when they are clothed, when they are naked. Of course, I have a model who gives me more or less the same shape. But it’s not a question of changing the figures in the painting; it’s a question of changing the atmosphere, even with the same figures, you can do something completely different’ (P. Delvaux quoted in Art Lives: Paul Delvaux, 2015, San Francisco: Kanopy Streaming, San Francisco, California, USA: Kanopy Streaming 2015, film).
The ambiguity of twilight that characterises so many of Delvaux’s paintings is palpable in Rosine, but in spite of his attention to the dream world, Delvaux had little interest in Sigmund Freud’s theories of the subconscious. Unlike his fellow Surrealists, Delvaux’s canvases lack the explicitly psychoanalytical citations that can be found in works by Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and René Magritte. Instead, his visual idiom skewed towards the personal and away from doctrine. As Delvaux explained, his paintings were always open to manifold interpretations: ‘I see no need to give a temporal explanation to what I do, neither do I feel the need to account for the human subjects who exist only for the purpose of painting. These figures recount no history: they are. Further, they express nothing in themselves...’ (P. Delvaux quoted in Jaques Meuris, 7 dialogues avec Paul Delvaux accompagnés de lettres imaginaires, Paris, 1971, p. 22).
Born in 1897 in Antheit, a small Belgian village, Delvaux spent his childhood in Brussels. His was a comfortable childhood, and from the balcony of his family’s apartment, he watched the first electric trams go past his street. ‘I loved trains and my nostalgia for them has stayed with me, a memory from youth. I don’t attach any special significance to that, nothing to do with departure, but more an expression of a feeling… the pictures of stations and trains do not represent reality’ (P. Delvaux quoted in Paul Delvaux 1897-1994 exh. cat., Royal Museum of Fine Arts Belgium, Brussels, 1997, p. 27).
Delvaux attended the prestigious Athénée de Saint-Gilles, where he studied the humanities. A self-professed mediocre student, he was nevertheless fascinated by history, and traced his interest in antiquity to these years. When he was nineteen, Delvaux matriculated at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels to study architecture, a training evident in the precisely rendered details of his painted buildings as well as in his deployment of formal perspectival systems developed during the Renaissance. After failing his first-year exams and quitting the program, Delvaux decided he wanted to be an artist and began to attend a painting working taught by Constant Montald, which Magritte had also taken previously. In the morning the young Delvaux painted from live nude models, and in the afternoon, he studied landscapes. ‘That way,’ he reminisced, ‘I had a sort of complete education’ (P. Delvaux quoted in Art Lives: Paul Delvaux, 2015, op. cit.).
Initially, Delvaux painted in the style of academic masters such as Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres; it wasn’t until the 1930s that his visual language diverged from his classical training to incorporate more contemporary touchstones and experiences. He became enchanted by Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical compositions, which Delvaux found himself drawn to for their profound use of colour. These works gave him ‘something to dream about’: ‘It was on seeing the work of de Chirico that I discovered that there was an extra dimension to painting,’ Delvaux said. ‘He showed me that there is a poetic element to painting... The empty towns and silent people of de Chirico corresponded to something inside me’ (P. Delvaux quoted in B. Emerson, Delvaux, Antwerp, 1985, p. 60).
Delvaux was, during those years, seeking his own extra dimension, and in 1932, he found a template for embodying the subconscious on earth. In July of that year, at the annual Foire du Midi funfair, Delvaux came across a booth dedicated to Pierre Spitzner’s waxworks from the 19th century. These models had been created to help aspiring doctors learn about anatomy and physiology; for Delvaux, they were a revelation, particularly the Sleeping Venus whose mechanized apparatus made her appear to breathe. Henceforth, he endeavoured to evoke the same sublime wonder in his paintings, and in the incongruity of Rosine, he gives image to this sense of hallucinatory instability.
Indeed, as with all of Delvaux’s oeuvre, Rosine conjures a strange imaginary even as it is rooted in the power of his childhood recollections. ‘All my life,’ he reflected, ‘I’ve tried to transcribe reality, to make it into a kind of dream, where objects, while preserving the appearance of reality, take on a poetic meaning. Thus, the painting becomes fiction. But each object has its logical place. What’s strange is that, to create a painting everything seems complicated at first, when in fact the solution is always simple. Why can’t I begin at the end?’ (P. Delvaux quoted in Art Lives: Paul Delvaux, 2015, op. cit.).

More from The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale

View All
View All