Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Surrealism and Anatomical Waxes

An interesting piece about the influence of popular anatomical waxes on the work of Paul Delvaux. Full text below, original here.
Delvaux and the Inaccessible Woman
Two exhibitions of the Belgian Surrealist Paul Delvaux (1897-1994) were on view in Madrid this spring, "Drawings of a Lifetime" at Fundación Carlos de Amberes and "Paul Delvaux, Paintings" at the Fundación Juan March. When it comes to Delvaux, all I can say is never underestimate the power of a wax museum. Pierre Spitzner's Grand Museum of Anatomy and Hygiene, installed early this century in a Brussels fair, was a major influence on Delvaux.

"This place," wrote the artist, "left a profound mark in my life that stayed with me ...a total turn in my concept of painting. . . . [I realized] painting could express drama without losing its plastic character." Judging from Delvaux's work, the expression came forth, but most of the drama stayed inside. His drawings of goddesses, nymph-like creatures and large-eyed maternal figures are as full and round as they are contained.

Delvaux's major influences include De Chirico, Dalí and fellow Belgian René Magritte, though his work has none of the shock value of Magritte and none of Dalí's famous 'paranoiac' method. It does however exemplify consummate Surrealist technique in the paintings and a gentle magnetism in the drawings. Most interesting is the drawing of a wax Venus in the Grand Museum of Hygiene that Delvaux found completely absorbing. Reclining inside a glass chamber, the wax figure was connected to an apparatus that made her appear to breathe. This waxy Aphrodite inspired Delvaux to paint versions of the inaccessible woman for the rest of his days.


Anonymous said...

This post makes me happy! Delvaux is one of my favorites, and he gets very little love. Didn't realize he was influenced by anatomical waxes, very cool.

JE said...

That's funny-I totally thought of you and Phantasmaphile when I posted it. Glad you like it!