Lot 355
  • 355

Paul Delvaux

400,000 - 600,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Paul Delvaux
  • Le Tramway de notre enfance (Mémoires)
  • Signed P. Delvaux and dated .9-55. (lower right)
  • Oil on board in artist's frame
  • 20 3/8 by 48 5/8 in.
  • 51.7 by 123.5 cm


Mrs. Emily McFadden-Staempfli, New York (acquired directly from the artist by 1959)
Thence by descent


Boitsfort, Brussells, Maison Haute, XIIe Salon, 1957, no. 6
New York, Staempfli Gallery, Paul Delvaux, 1959, no. 20, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, Staempfli Gallery, Paul Delvaux, 1969, no. 10, illustrated in the catalogue
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, 1973, no. 50, illustrated in the catalogue
Knokke-Heist, Casino, Rétrospective Paul Delvaux, 1973, no. 41, illustrated in the catalogue


Paul Aloise de Bock, Paul Delvaux, Brussels, 1967, illustrated pl. 114
Michel Butor, Jean Clair & Suzanne Houbart-Wilkin, Delvaux, Catalogue de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1975, no. 220, illustrated p. 239

Catalogue Note

Le Tramway de notre enfance (Mémoires) is considered one of the most captivating examples within Delvaux’s series of paintings depicting trams, trains and railways. The artist produced several of these works beginning in 1955, the year the present work was completed, through the early 1960s. This scene evokes Delvaux’s dreamlike imagery—travelers of unknown origins and destinations are caught in the darkness of a mysterious train station.

The effects of light and shadows also feature prominently in the scene, as the light of two lamp posts interrupts the harsh darkness of the tram station, producing a haunting glow. Discussing Delvaux's fascination with light in his paintings, Barbara Emerson has written, "Delvaux uses light to great effect, almost as if he were manipulating theatrical equipment of spots and dimmers. With consummate skill, he contrasts cool white shafts of moonlight with the warm, gentle glow from an oil lamp" (Barbara Emerson, Delvaux, Paris & Antwerp, 1985, p. 174). The ethereal sensation of the glowing light contrasts with the bold, dark lines of the tram cables and the lamp posts. Originally trained as an architect studying at the Académie royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, the architectural settings of Delvaux’s paintings are the hallmark of his work. The present work, with the symmetrical, geometric formations of the train station and the tram cars, is a shining example of Delvaux’s architectural expertise and its presence in his paintings.

The present work’s title makes the connection between trains, memories and youth explicit. Delvaux himself has said of this central theme, “As a child, I liked trains and this nostalgia has stayed with me; memories of youth…I paint the trains of my childhood and consequently, that childhood itself” (quoted in Marc Rombaut, Paul Delvaux, New York, 1990, p. 22). Therefore, trains hold a personal yet mysterious and un-deciphered importance for the artist.

Diverging from Delvaux’s common interpretation of train scenes, with its lack of central figure or protagonist, the gaze is absorbed by the audience, who observes the scene from the other side of the tracks. Delvaux calls upon the audience in the title to recall a collectively shared narrative. The act of remembering and the feeling of nostalgia then shifts from the deeply personal to the universal.As observers from across the tracks to this mysterious train’s arrival or departure, we become complicit in the dream and project our own memories onto the scene, as we witness the voyage of the tram’s passengers between dream and reality.