Belgium – (5) – Surrealist-Realist Influences at the Paul Delvaux Museum in St-Idesbald on the Belgian North Sea Coast

On one of these wonderful end-of-summer days, my dad and I went to the beach town of Saint-Idesbald, between Koksijde en de Panne (in Flanders/Belgium, near France) to visit the Paul Delvaux Museum  (I find the way that website works a bit annoying, but) the museum itself is lovely.  I had been told it was ‘small’, so I was positively impressed with its many giant originals, inspiring quotes and fascinating history of the painter.

A (no flash) 180 degree panoramic of part of the museum.

Often classified by art historians as a ‘Belgian Surrealist’, Mr. Delvaux himself found that interpretation of his work too narrow, formal and especially superficial.  He simply wanted to create a “poetic realism“.

I’m sharing a quick snapshot of some of his exhibited work and memorable quotes (at the museum in 3 languages: Dutch, French and English), to entice you to go check it out yourself.

From Wikipedia:  “The paintings Delvaux became famous for usually feature numbers of nude women who stare as if hypnotized, gesturing mysteriously, sometimes reclining incongruously in a train station or wandering through classical buildings.

Sometimes they are accompanied by skeletons, men in bowler hats, or puzzled scientists drawn from the stories of Jules Verne”

Such as these ones:

‘Tribute to J. Verne’ (1971), by Paul Delvaux, at his museum in Belgium.

‘Pompeii’ (1970), by Paul Delvaux, viewable at the museum. (Wiki Commons)

“Delvaux would repeat variations on these themes for the rest of his long life, although some departures can be noted. Among them are his paintings of 1945-47, rendered in a flattened style with distorted and forced perspective effects, and the series of crucifixions and deposition scenes enacted by skeletons, painted in the 1950s.”

Paul Delvaux used models (including of model trains) and real props, such as these skulls and skeletons, in preparations for many of his paintings. As seen at the Paul Delvaux Museum in Saint-Idesbald, Belgium.

“In the late 1950s he produced a number of night scenes in which trains are observed by a little girl seen from behind.  These compositions contain nothing overtly surrealistic, yet the clarity of moonlit detail is hallucinatory in effect.”

‘The Forest Station’ (1961), by Paul Delvaux, viewable at this wonderful museum.

“Trains had always been a subject of special interest to Delvaux, who never forgot the wonder he felt as a small child at the sight of the first electric trams in Brussels.”

Throughout the museum, quotes give insights into his life, thinking and creative process.  Here’s just one I found lovely:

One of many informational signs at the Paul Delvaux Museum.

Like my visit to the René Magritte Museum in Brussels (see previous blogpost), I was thoroughly inspired by this man who found and followed his calling.  Cheers to thát!

Afterwards,  a stroll on the lovely very nearby North Sea beach…

Long before it was all built-up with ocean-view highrises, Paul Delvaux spent a lot of time in these parts of the Belgian Coast, which he loved for its magical light.
Photo © Michaël Van Broekhoven, September 2012 (looking towards De Panne)

Highly Recommended!

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