The present work has been requested for the forthcoming exhibition, Destinations Delvaux, to be held at the Musée Curtius, Liège, from 21 March to 30 June 2009.
'For me Surrealism represented freedom to disobey the rationalist logic that to some extent at least had governed, up to then, the act of painting as well as relations between what I call the elements, as much in nature as in painting. This logic once transcended, these relationships appeared in a new light as much at the intellectual level as the visual, and there suddenly sprang up an awareness of quite different mental relations between objects and people. When I dared paint a Roman triumphal arch with, on the ground, lighted lamps, the decisive step had been taken. That event was an absolutely extraordinary revelation for me. It was a major revelation for me to understand that all constraints on creativity disappeared when painting finally uncovered to my eyes its deepest and thus its most essential revelatory powers. Painting could, I realised, have a meaning of its own, it confirmed in a very special way its capacity to play a major emotional role' (P. Delvaux quoted in J. Meuris, 7 dialogues avec Paul Delvaux accompagnés de lettres imaginaires, Paris, 1971, p. 87).
Painted in December 1967, Le rendez-vous d'Ephèse displays all the key constructive elements of Delvaux's magical art and seemingly appears to lay them bare for inspection. Centred around the figure of a sleeping Venus of the kind that Delvaux had first encountered in the shed of the Spitzner Museum in Brussels in the early 1930s and which had had such a profound effect on him, the familiar motifs of his art here coincide in a nocturnal encounter against the classical lines of a deep angular perspective. Set like a vortex at the heart of the painting, this classicizing perspective acts like a stage-set on which Delvaux's nocturnal wanderers perform, each echoing and reacting with the other in a strange poetic play of form and personality.
Here, the pensive young blonde seated in self-absorption in the foreground is contrasted with a standing nude gazing into the middle of the picture where the familiar dark figure of the lone wandering geologist from Jules Verne is echoed and even backlit by the light of two embracing nudes. Constructing the picture with the meticulousness and careful order of a 20th century Poussin, Delvaux, even appears to mockingly reference the perfection of the great 17th century Frenchman's stage-like classical landscapes in his use of red drapery to lead the eye into the distance of the painting and in his echo of the forms of a triumphal arch with those of a Brussels tram.
'Painting' Delvaux said, 'is not only the pleasure of putting colours on canvas. It is also the expression of a poetic feeling...What interests me is plastic expression, the rediscovery of poetry in painting, which had been lost for centuries' (P. Delvaux quoted in exh. cat., Paul Delvaux 1897-1994, Brussels, 1997, p. 21). This strange rendezvous seems to deliberately reveal the artifice of its own construction at every turn, as if the subject of the painting were in fact this strange meeting between the innate artifice of the painter's art and the mysterious power of the poetry that such carefully constructed artifice can evoke.