Van Gogh •
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Paul Delvaux was born in Antheit, Belgium, and attended the Brussels Art Academy.
After graduation his work was entirely cut off from modern art, which Delvaux considered a hoax, and remained a blend of Neo-Impressionism and Expressionism until 1936 when he encountered the work of the Surrealist painters Giorgio de Chirico and Salvadore Dali in the private collections of some friends. Later, and although, at first, the works of Magritte disconcerted him, it was this artist who would influence Delvaux the most. The effect of this confrontation was revolutionary in Delvaux's art; the manner for which he is known was born virtually whole in 1936 and has changed very little over the years. From that time on his aim was no longer to faithfully interpret the outer exterior world but to explore the intimate and secret domain of his inner life.
Delvaux visited Italy and studied the painters of the Quattrocento; their linear perspective, architecture and women of ideal proportion. The general style of his work seems to be drawn from early Renaissance studies of perspective. Delvaux pays meticulous attention to detail, and uses perspective to suggest a distancing from reality into the mind's vision. Delvaux concentrates on Woman, making Her, as many Surrealist poets have, the center of his world. His women are usually shown in a sexual context that is wistful and passive. They sit silently and wait endlessly; they are never in dialogue with men, who enter their world only as old men, doctors, professors (frequently examining their bodies with magnifying glasses) or effete boys. Delvaux's women are drawn in a style resembling an antique Hellenism and they all bear a family resemblance to each other. Sometimes the male principle is suppressed in a literal sense only to emerge symbolically, as for example, in his images of trains. His women move with enigmatic purpose, carriers of a mood of expectancy who make communication with the realm of the Surreal possible. Delvaux's dream world is meticulously rendered and filled with a nostalgic sadness that transforms even his erotic paintings into something elusive and unreal.