Paul Delvaux (Belgian, 1897–1994) was a Surrealist painter, known for his depictions of female nudes. Born in Antheit in the province of Liège, Delvaux attended the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussles, studying architecture then painting under painter, muralist, and sculptor Constant Montald.

During the early 1920s, he was influenced by Expressionist and Surrealist artists James Ensor and Gustave de Smet. In 1936, Delvaux held an exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels with René Magritte, a fellow member of the Belgian group Les Compagnons de l’Art.

Delvaux was given solo exhibitions in 1938 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, and the London Gallery. That same year he participated in the Exposition internationale du surréalisme at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, organized by André Breton and Paul Éluard, and an exhibition of the same title at the Galerie Robert in Amsterdam. The artist visited Italy in 1938 and 1939.

Delvaux became well known for his images of nude women, characterized by their hypnotized stares and mysterious gestures, and often depicted in odd settings, including train stations and classical buildings, sometimes accompanied by skeletons, men in bowler hats, or scientists inspired by the stories of Jules Verne.

His first retrospective was held at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels between 1944 and 1945. Delvaux executed stage designs for Jean Genet’s Adame Miroire in 1947, and collaborated with Eluard on the book Poèmes, peintures et dessins, published in Geneva and Paris the following year. In 1950, he was appointed professor at the Ecole Supérieure d’Art et d’Architecture in Brussels, where he remained until 1962.

From 1965 to 1966, Delvaux served as president and director of the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Belgium, and produced his first lithographs around the same time. Retrospectives of his work were held at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille in 1965, at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1969, and at the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam in 1973. Also in 1973, he was awarded the Rembrandt Prize of the Johann Wolfgang Stiftung. A retrospective was then held at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo and the National Museum of Modern Art of Kyoto in 1975. In 1977, he became an associate member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in France.

Delvaux died in Veurne, Belgium, on July 20, 1994. Today, his works can be found in prestigious collections around the world, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Guggenheim Collection in Venice, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Fukuoka Art Museum in Japan, and the Paul Delvaux Foundation and Museum in Belgium.

Timeline

1897
Born on 23 September at Antheit, near Huy in Belgium
1918
Met Franz Courtens during a holiday in Duinbergen
1916–1919
Enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Brussels, initially studying architecture, and, later, painting
1920
Spent his afternoons at the Rouge-Cloître, at the edge of the Forêt de Soignes, where he painted many landscapes; met the painter Alfred Bastien who encouraged his ambition to be a painter
1920–1921
Carried out his military service from May 31, 1920 to June 18, 1921; in the evenings he followed the classes given by Jean Delville at the Brussels Academy
1923
Exhibited for the first time at the Exposition de jeune peinture et jeune sculpture at the Brussels gallery of Georges Giroux
1936
Shared an exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels with René Magritte, a fellow member of the Belgian group Les Compagnons de l’Art
1937
Joined the Belgian Surrealists
1938
Solo exhibitions at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, and the London Gallery
1938–1939
Visited Italy
1944–1945
First retrospective was held at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels
1947
Executed stage designs for Jean Genet’s Adame Miroire
1956
Traveled to Greece
1950–1962
Appointed professor at the Ecole Supérieure d’Art et d’Architecture in Brussels
1965
Retrospectives of his work were held at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille
1965–1966
Served as president and director of the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts of Belgium; produced his first lithographs
1969
Retrospectives of his work were held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris
1973
Retrospectives of his work were held at the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam
1973
Awarded the Rembrandt Prize of the Johann Wolfgang Stiftung
1975
Retrospective was shown at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo and the National Museum of Modern Art of Kyoto
1977
Became an associate member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts of France
1994
Died in Veurne, Belgium, on July 20

Exhibitions

2008
Cosas del Surrealismo - Museo Guggenheim de Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo, Bilbao
2007
Das grosse Finale - 49 Jahre - 9.12.1958 - 8.12.2007 - Galerie Brusberg Berlin, Berlin
2007
Peggy Guggenheim E L’immaginario Surreale - Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
2007
25 years Brusberg Berlin - Galerie Brusberg Berlin, Berlin
2007
Sommergäste - Neuerwerbungen und Arbeiten aus dem Bestand (II) - Galerie Brusberg Berlin, Berlin
2007
Sommergäste - Neuerwerbungen und Arbeiten aus dem Bestand (I) - Galerie Brusberg Berlin, Berlin
2007
Surreal Things - Surrealism and Design - Victoria and Albert Museum - V&A, London (England)
2007
La colección Pierre y Maria-Gaetana Matisse en The Metropolitan Museum of Art , New York - Museo Picasso Málaga, Málaga
2007
Il Settimo Splendore - La modernità della malinconia - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Palazzo Forti, Verona
2007
Fondation Beyeler: EROS in der Kunst der Moderne - BA-CA Kunstforum Wien, Vienna
2007
A New Key: Modern Belgian Art from the Simon Collection - McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
2006
Das Geheimnis der Frau - Paul Delvaux und der Surrealismus - Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Bielefeld (solo)
2006
Memento Mori - Mireille Mosler Ltd., New York City, NY
2006
Surrealism: Then and Now - Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York City, NY
2006
EROS in der Kunst der Moderne - Foundation Beyeler, Riehen
2006
Ensor and the avantgardes by the sea - Museum Voor Moderne Kunst (PMMK), Oostende
2006
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium Exhibition - NMWA The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
2006
Classics - Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere
2006
Auktion 22 - Lehr - Auktionshaus und Galerie, Berlin
2005
Il surrealismo di Delvaux tra Magritte e De Chirico - Palazzo Bricherasio, Turin
2005
Auktion 21 - Lehr - Auktionshaus und Galerie, Berlin
2004
The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY
2004
Andererseits - Die Phantastik - Landesgalerie am Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseum, Linz
2004
A century of belgian painting - Frissiras Museum, Athens
2004
La ciudad que nunca existió. Arquitecturas fantásticas en el arte occidental - Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Bilbao
2004
Prints from the collections of the Turku Art Museum - Turku Art Museum, Turku
2004
Il nudo fra ideale e realtà - Galleria d´Arte Moderna di Bologna - GAM, Bologna
2003
Die Sammlung Wald - Glanzstücke der Malerei des 20. Jahrhunderts - Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg
2003
A Singular Vision: The Melvin Blake and Frank Purnell Legacy - MFA - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, MA
2001
Surrealism: Desire Unbound - Tate Modern, London (England)
2000
Cosmos - From Goya to De Chirico from Friedrich to Kiefer - Palazzo Grassi, Venice
1999
Paul Delvaux - Acuarelas y Dibujos - Museu d´Art Espanyol Contemporani (Fundación Juan March), Palma de Mallorca (solo)
1998
Paul Delvaux - Fundación Juan March, Madrid (solo)
1998
Forma y Figuración - Obras maestras de la Colección Blake-Purnell - Museo Guggenheim de Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo, Bilbao
1995
46th International Art Exhibition Venice Biennale / Biennale di Venezia - La Biennale di Venezia, Venice
1992
Adam & Eve - Museum of Modern Art Saitama, Saitama
1989
Open Mind (Gesloten Circuits) - SMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent
1989
Paul de Vaux - Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich (solo)
1982
In Our Time: Houston’s Contemporary Arts Museum 1948–1982 - Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX
1969
Ensor - Delvaux - Magritte - Galerie Gmurzynska - Köln, Cologne
1959
documenta 2 - Documenta, Kassel
1958
Paintings from the Urvater Collection - Tate Britain, London (England)
1958
The Disquieting Muse: Surrealism - Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX
1953
5th Anniversary Exhibition