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The Pink Bows

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Paul Delvaux
Antheit 1897 - Veurne 1994
1937
oil on canvas
121.5 x 160 cm
Inventory number 2850

Paul Delvaux is known to the general public mainly as a painter of trains, railway stations and naked women. However, the Belgian artist also drew inspiration from Antiquity. As he boy, he used to be fascinated by the stories of the Iliad and the Odyssey. And he used to make sketches in his schoolbooks of mythological scenes, Greek soldiers and ancient temples. He would later return to these motifs as a painter. In this canvas, we see a number of naked women roaming through ancient ruins in a hilly landscape. The women are stereotypical, trivial and idealised. Their almond-shaped eyes seem unable to see. The upper bodies of two of the figures are covered in a pink bow, a recurrent element in the work of Delvaux, just like the skeleton in the building in the background.

Not a Surrealist

In 1934, Paul Delvaux became acquainted with the work of Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí and René Magritte. Like them, he tended increasingly towards Surrealism. Still, it would be inaccurate to label him a 'Belgian Surrealist'. Delvaux himself disliked labels and –isms. He always distanced himself from artistic groups and collectives. Perhaps that is why René Magritte, the quintessential Belgian Surrealist, mockingly called him Delvache or Delboeuf (Del-cow).

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