Paul Delvaux’s Wildest Dreams

Paul Delvaux’s Wildest Dreams

A mysterious painting by Paul Delvaux incorporates some of the artist's most imaginative iconography, leading Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art Day sale on 29 June.
A mysterious painting by Paul Delvaux incorporates some of the artist's most imaginative iconography, leading Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art Day sale on 29 June.
Paul Delvaux.

T hough he refused any formal association with Surrealism, Paul Delvaux was deeply inspired by the imaginative works of Giorgio de Chirico, René Magritte, Salvador Dalí and Max Ernst, and created a rich body of work renowned for hallucinatory scenarios and dream-like imagery. In most of Delvaux’s paintings, a sense of the bizarre is heightened by the unexplained presence of stoic figures. “I do not feel the need to give a temporal explanation of what I do,” he said, “neither do I feel the need to account for my human subjects who exist only for the purpose of my paintings.” In L’Impératrice, one such figure stands alone, surrounded by columns, reflecting the artist’s awareness of the ancient connection between these structures and the human form. Much like the haunting street scenes of de Chirico, the rigidity of the architecture creates a palpable sensation of enigmatic uncertainty.

Property from a Private Collection, Europe
PAUL DELVAUX
L’Impératrice, 1974
Estimate $1,000,000–1,500,000

View Lot

1. Female Figures

Static female figures contribute to Delvaux’s disconcerting atmospheres, and, in their trancelike stillness, evoke Renaissance ideals of timeless beauty.

2. Corinthian Columns

Delvaux included overt Neo-Classical iconography, usually to contrast modern urban settings with ancient architecture.

3. Light and Shadow

Delvaux was fascinated by light, and many scenes are mysteriously lit by a full moon, bathing the picture in an unsettling incandescence

4. Background

Originally training as an architect, Delvaux painted eerily empty settings such as railway stations or streets that were integral to his disquieting compositions.

5. Doors

Doors and domestic architecture often feature in Delvaux’s œuvre, and when juxtaposed with his vast landscapes, contribute to a sense of displacement.

Property from a Private Collection, Europe
PAUL DELVAUX
L’Impératrice, 1974
Estimate $1,000,000–1,500,000

View Lot


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