Monday, 23 December 2013

Gothic Art in Spotlight: Paul Delvaux

I happened to see an art program in a TV the other day. It was High Art of the Low Countries by BBC and it introduced some of the artists of Belgium and Netherlands. Thanks to this TV-show, I found out more about one particular artist: Paul Delvaux (1987-1994).

When art history happens and categories are created, Delvaux is often seen as a surrealist and that definition describes his work quite well. I also see much of macabre in his paintings. The paintings are often creepy in a more modern way, with a lot of maidens and allusions to the popular and macabre theme of "Death and Maiden". On the other hand, some Delvaux's works refer to older macabre art, like deathbeds from the Middle Ages.


Also the macabre art from 15th century to 16th century have a lot of surrealistic themes and situations, so I guess it once again comes down to context. One of my favorite artists from that era is Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516). There is a huge similarity between Delvaux painting in the second picture and these two:


Although these paintings of Delvaux and these details of Bosch's paintings are similar, the context was different when they were made and the word "art" did not mean the same thing during the 16th century as it does during the 20th century. When Bosch painted, the Renaissance was slowly kicking in, but his paintings are more medieval in theme, which is about christian beliefs of Hell and Sin and other things that were important themes during the Middle Ages when life was hard, there were many wars and pestilence. Delvaux's art was created in a different atmosphere. He lived both of the World Wars, but the knowledge of Medicine escalated during his lifetime and an ordinary cold could not kill that easily and therefore the meaning of Death in the culture was indeed different and that makes the macabre art of the Middle Ages and the 20th century different from each other.


  1. I love Delvaux's art. I have always loved the Surrealists, but he is definitely one of my favourites!

    1. Delvaux is a wonderful painter indeed. :D