1897-1994 | BelgianStudy for “L’Acropole”
Signed and dated "P.Delvaux 1965" (lower right)
Watercolor, pen and ink on paper
This preliminary drawing for Paul Delvaux’s greatest masterpiece L’Acropole, which resides today in the Centre Pompidou in Paris, features the artist’s most beloved subject — mystical scenes of nude women. A centrally-placed, stoic woman draped in a long green gown stands with her arms outstretched by her sides. She gazes at another idealized woman in the foreground, lying nude on a chaise lounge, while behind her, multitudes of other women in white dresses undertake a long procession towards a distant door. The captivating scene exudes the unique Surrealist style for which the artist has become known.
With this skillful rendering of the surreal setting, Delvaux has mastered depicting nude women in a sensual yet non-erotic manner. The artist drew inspiration from a variety of sources, including the futuristic writings of Jules Verne and the mythos of Homer, and blended them with his subconscious themes, which frequently included the nude female form. In combination with the loose concepts of form and perspective found in the 16th-century Mannerist paintings that Delvaux studied in Italy before World War II, his distinctive style served to create memorable dreamscapes without veering into lewdness. Like the very best Surrealist images, the work is both innovative and engaging.
Paul Delvaux's earliest and most lasting influences in his art were the futuristic writings of Jules Verne and the mythos of Homer. After completing his initial artistic training at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Delvaux exhibited with Surrealists Dalí, de Chirico, and Magritte at the Exposition Minotaure of 1934. Though his atmospheric compositions are reminiscent of his contemporaries in some ways, Delvaux rejected the Surrealist label for his work. In his later oeuvre, like Study for “L’Acropole“
, the artist deftly combines his Academic training with symbolist and surrealist influences to create his own distinct visual language — a mature, embodied style that sets his work apart.
Paul Delvaux’s unforgettable paintings reside in prestigious museum collections around the globe, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Modern and the Centre Pompidou, which houses L’Acropole
. His work has generated reinvigorated institutional attention in recent years, including a 2013 solo show in the UK and the forthcoming exhibition The Shape of Dreams
at the Dalí Museum, set to open in the fall of 2022.
The work's authenticity has been further confirmed by the Foundation Paul Delvaux, who operates the artist’s estate and the Museum Paul Delvaux in Koksijde, Belgium.
Paper: 15 3/4“ high x 24 1/4” wide
Frame: 27 3/4“ high x 35 1/2” wide x 1 1/4“ deep
Christie's London, 30 November 1982, lot 217
Private Collection, Switzerland
M.S. Rau, New Orleans