Paul Delvaux was born in Wanze, Belgium, in 1897. At a young age, Delvaux displayed an affinity for Classics, studying Greek and Latin as well as the poetry of Homer, but went on to study architecture at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Delvaux graduated in 1924, having also enrolled in painting classes. Delvaux’s early work was inspired by Flemish Impressionism and James Ensor, though encounters with the work of Giorgio de Chirico, as well as Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, and fellow Belgian René Magritte, saw him develop a personal aesthetic that had stylistic similarities to the Surrealists by the 1930s. Around this time in the early 1930s, Delvaux visited the Brussels Fair where the Spitzner Museum of medical curiosities maintained a booth in which skeletons and a mechanical Venus figure were displayed in a window with red curtains. This encounter proved formative, inspiring many of Delvaux’s most recognisable recurrent motifs.
In 1936, Delvaux shared an exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels with Magritte, a fellow member of the Belgian group Les Compagnons de l’Art. In 1938 and 1939, Delvaux visited Italy, captivated by the Classical architecture as well as 16th century Mannerist painting. Residing in Brussels during the war, Delvaux refused to exhibit publicly, with many of his paintings during the period expressing the despair he witnessed first-hand. Delvaux steadily gained recognition after the war, taking part in the 1954 Venice Biennale. In 1959, he executed a mural at the Palais des Congrès in Brussels, one of several large scale decorative commissions the artist undertook. He was named president and director of the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in 1965. In 1982, the Paul Delvaux Museum opened in Saint-Idesbald. Delvaux died in Veurne, Belgium, in 1994.
Paul Delvaux’s work features in the following major international collections: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; the Albertina Museum, Vienna; Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Tate Collection, London.
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