In the work of Paul Delvaux we frequently find the female figure, a favorite subject of the artist. He stages the body of the women in antique setting or in scenes of everyday life. Often calm and mysterious, the women Delvaux focusses to represent are the reflection of the complex relationship that he maintains towards them. Indeed, already at a young age, the possessive and authoritarian mother of the artist warned him against women. Since then, the artist nurtured a fascination with the women he places on a pedestal. The woman represented in his work, are the image of his feminine ideal. Always young and beautiful, they are often naked, draped or preciously dressed. They symbolize the fascination and intrigue that Delvaux feels towards them and their bodies. The female figure occupies different roles in his work, from femme fatale to the mythological creature.
In this work we see this love for the female figure on display with several figures making up the composition. A small tear on the left slightly lower than the center and a tiny fold at the top center in the central figure have been delicately restored. The Paul Delvaux Fondation suggested this might have been a study or research composition for either his work ‘Paysage Antiques’ or ‘Le rêve’, both from 1944. This period of Delvaux’ works are considered some of his best and his works were the subject of a major retrospective exhibition in Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts from December 1944 – January 1945. We believe it might have been a study for his work ‘Les Courtisanes’ in 1944 as well, the compositions and subject seem more fitting.
Delvaux’s love life has not been without complication and this reflected in his art. When Delvaux fell in love with his first and great love Anne-Marie De Martelaere, known as Tam, at the age of thirty, the mother of Delvaux fiercely opposed this relationship, and he married someone else. This great sorrow of a lost love will permeate the image of the woman Delvaux depicts in his work: she is inaccessible and very often the man is excluded. At the death of his mother, the sadness felt by the artist is great but her death was also liberating for the future of his work. Delvaux now represents the woman in a much more libertine way. In 1947 he met Tam again in Sint-Idesbald. This chance meeting leads the two lovers to get married. The following decade will then mark a loss of creativity of the artist, his beloved imposes some constraints on Delvaux. He can no longer use models or represent them the way he desires. Later, Delvaux marries Suzanne Purnal and maintains a platonic love towards her.
– private collection, Belgium
Certificate of authenticity of the Paul Delvaux Foundation, St-Idesbald, September 19, 2016.