Saturday, February 7, 2015

Paul Delvaux at Auction

Sotheby's 2017

Paul Delvaux
Filles au bord de l’eau
oil on canvas
Painted in 1966.
Estimate: £1,700,000-2,200,000 

Giving a glimpse into Delvaux’s fantastical imagination, Filles au bord de l’eau is an alluring and sophisticated example of his Surrealist creation – bringing together the key elements that defined the artist’s mysterious works

This dream-like scene depicts at once an interior and exterior setting, as architectural elements such as the blue door, mirrors and window frames suggest the conventional structure of a house even as the walls have dramatically opened onto an impressive seascape. The principal protagonist defines the atmosphere of the painting as one of stillness and expectation, with her expressionless gaze and lingering hand gesture directed outside of the composition. 

The nude women that surround her recall the gentle beauty of a Botticelli, adding a
sense of timelessness to the scene. Throughout his lifetime, Delvaux refused to provide any sort
of narrative for his compositions – stating ‘these figures recount no history: they are’ - leaving the
viewer to contemplate the perplexing scene.

Christie's 2017

Two works are being offered by The Art Institute of Chicago. Paul Delvaux’s Le village des sirènes, created in 1942, one of the best years in Delvaux’s oeuvre, at the very height of the German occupation of Belgium, portrays an otherworldly scene, in which a group of elegantly dressed women sit along a gently curving street with mermaids swimming beyond. The silence conveyed offers a startling contrast to the chaos of the war that was raging in Europe at this time while the disconcerting and anachronistic architectural juxtapositions and disquieting atmosphere reveal a strong affinity with the art of Giorgio de Chirico.

Sotheby's 2016

Paul Delvaux Le Miroir (1936) Estimate: £5,500,000-7,500,000 

In this monumental painting Delvaux presents an encounter of disparate elements, juxtaposed in such a way as to create a world of mystery. Depicting at once an interior and an exterior setting, there is an ambiguity in the relationship between the two figures. The nude woman is associated with nature and beauty, whilst the decaying room with its peeling wallpaper may well serve as a metaphor for the woman’s spiritual state. The first owner of Le Miroir was Sir Roland Penrose, who was himself a painter as well as a friend of many Surrealist artists and an avid promoter of their work.  


Paul Delvaux
Le Train Bleu or La Rue Aux Tramways 
 Oil on board 122 by 244cm; 48 by 96in.
Painted in November 1946 Est. £2.5 - 3.5 million

Painted in November 1946, Paul Delvaux’s monumental work Le train bleu, alternatively known as La rue aux tramways, is one of the most important and remarkable paintings from the peak of his career. Although the artist was acquainted with the leading figures of the Surrealist group, including André Breton and Paul Eluard, his form of Surrealism remained unique. Capturing the modernity of the urban landscape juxtaposed with the sensuality of the nude form, this monumental work is an exceptional example of the paintings he was producing at this critical time in his oeuvre. 

Replete with some of the artist's most iconic motifs, Le canapé bleu embodies Delvaux's aesthetic magnificently (est. $3.5/5 million). Luxuriating nudes play out an ambiguous narrative in the
foreground while the background provides an ineffable sense of place. The setting seems to

oscillate between a cinematic stage set, a domestic space and a train station. The train -
an element that appears in many of Delvaux's works - is only hinted at through the tunnel and red light at the upper left corner of the composition. The viewer is left with an eerie
feeling of erotic anticipation and excitement - a sensibility that pervades many of his earlier compositions as well, including  

Les cariatides from 1946, sold by Sotheby’s in May 2011. 

Sotheby’s London Surrealist Art Evening Sale on 5 February 2013


Painted in 1941, Les Courtisanes (est. £1-1.5 million)is an exceptional example of Paul Delvaux's painting. As in his finest compositions, it combines the motif of mysterious female nudes placed against a classically inspired architectural backdrop. Demonstrating the influence on Delvaux of Cézanne - in the composition, spacing and individual poses of the nudes, and in the overall concept of a bathing scene - the painting depicts the figures on a balcony by the sea, dominated by the large sky. The nudes and semi-nudes that we see before us in the guise of bathers by the sea are no doubt the courtesans referred to in the title of the work.

Sotheby's 2015

Paul Delvaux
LOT SOLD. 60,000 GBP

Sotheby's 2014

LOT SOLD. 80,500 GB
 Sotheby's 2013
Estimate 1,000,0001,500,000 GBP

LOT SOLD. 679,650 GBP 

Les Mains 

Le nu et le mannequin (Le nu au mannequin) 

Le vicinal 

Ecce homo (La descente de croix) 

Jeunes filles à la campagne 

Le temple 

Le passage à niveau 

Le sacrifice d'Iphigénie 

Le rendez-vous d'Ephèse 

La veillée 



Les demoiselles de Tongres 

Christie's 2011



Christie's 2012

Christie's 2013

Christie's 2014


Christie's 2015

Première étude pour  'Le Choeur' de 1983


Paul Delvaux (Belgian, 1897 - 1994)

The Belgian artist Delvaux studied architecture and painting in Brussels. He experimented with painting in an expressionist style but turned to Surrealism after seeing a surrealist exhibition in 1934. Delvaux was not a formal member of the surrealist movement and did not participate in group activities. However, he was well respected by the members of the group, including its leader André Breton. Delvaux's style changed little from the 1930s until his death in 1994. His characteristic works consist of nude or semi-nude women (similar or identical in appearance) in inappropriate or fantastical settings. Skeletons and trams are two of the recurring motifs in Delvaux's paintings.

L'Appel de la Nuit [The Call of the Night] 1938
This is an early and important work in Delvaux's dream-landscape style. There is a deliberate conflict between the eroticism of the nudes and the uninviting setting into which they have been cast. Sexual fantasy collides with sexual anxiety in the strange and desolate landscape. The symbolism calls for interpretation but resists any. A skull and skeleton can be seen in the background, as well as groups of rocks which appear to be arranged in a prehistoric or symbolic manner. The rampant vegetation clinging to the languid nudes threatens to engulf them. 

 La Rue du tramway [Street of the Trams] 1938 - 1939
This painting is typical of Delvaux's style, featuring enigmatic nude figures in a strange setting, lit by an eerie, unreal light. Delvaux had trained in Belgium as an architect, and the backgrounds of his paintings frequently feature classical architecture or buildings from Brussels. Trams are a recurring motif in his paintings: a classic sexual metaphor, according to the psychologist Sigmund Freud. Delvaux probably used the tram and the expressionless women displaying themselves in windows and doorways, to suggest sexual tension. Male figures appear much less frequently in his paintings. 
Nu au jardin [Nude in the Garden] 1966
The main figure in this drawing is Danielle Caneel, who modelled for Delvaux from 1966, the year this work was made. Caneel inspired much of Delvaux's work of the late 1960s and 1970s. Her slim figure and blond hair contrast with the stockier, dark-haired women who appear in the artist's earlier works. The device of presenting figures in an architectural setting is found throughout Delvaux's work. Here, the arches in the background act as a framing device for the figures. An inscription in the bottom corner notes that the drawing was made in St-Idesbald. Delvaux spent much of his time in the Belgian town from the 1950s and it is the location of the Paul Delvaux museum.